Defamation Law ‘Protects More Than The Rich And Famous’

Prince Albert Of Monaco Case Sheds Light On Legal Options


The general public have been urged by defamation lawyers at Irwin Mitchell that the law protects more than just celebrities, after another high-profile case hit the headlines in recent days.

Prince Albert of Monaco has accepted an apology and damages from the Sunday Times following the publication of an article in July 2011 in which defamatory allegations were made in relation to his marriage to Charlene Wittstock.

The News International publication will also pay his legal costs in relation to bringing the story, which it was claimed had caused the couple hurt, distress and embarrassment.

Rebekah Finch, a solicitor and expert in defamation law at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said the case may be another example of a person with a significant public profile taking such legal action, but added that the legislation in this area protects more than just the rich and famous.

She outlined: “Whilst this case demonstrates how newspapers and other publishers can seriously affect people’s lives when false statements are made, it is not only high-profile individuals and celebrities that face reputational issues. Any individual, company, partnership, and some other organisations may sue for libel or slander.

“False statements made about business leaders, such as chief executives and senior executives, can also create a significant reputational risk for their organisations and could affect future career prospects.

“The growth of social media has had a big impact on the law of defamation, as comments can be circulated very quickly to a vast number of people. It is important for anyone with such reputational concerns to always seek specialist legal advice.

Rebekah added: “Acting quickly can help to limit the level of damage caused and, by gaining advice, people can move to correct any falsehoods or untruths by asking those responsible to retract the comments and by contacting relevant publishers for their assistance.

“Unlike Prince Albert’s case, issuing legal proceedings is not always necessary and lawyers can work with parties to try and reach an early settlement or agreement.

“The limitation period for issuing defamation claims is one year from the date of the publication so parties must act quickly.

“If Court proceedings are necessary, the parties must also be able to demonstrate to the Court that they have acted quickly to minimise any potential damage if they are to fully highlight the seriousness of the issue.”