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Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Scienke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:40 pm

If someone with a genuine mental health problem posts all over the internet false defamatory claims about you, is the fact that they were mentally ill at the time a defence they could rely on in court to avoid paying the claimant damages?

Is the mental illness even a means by which the level of damages can be reduced?

I know in criminal law if mental health is a factor it can and will be taken into account. But I was curious about civil claims.

Are there any other barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

This isn't a situation I'm in thankfully but it is something that I've long wondered about.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Hairyloon » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:02 pm

I have no idea, but the Mental Health Act(s) allow for enforced treatment if someone is at risk of harm to themselves or others. I don't know if such "harm" is restricted to physical harm, but since most laws are about money, it seems to me unlikely.
Thus someone who uses that defence opens the door to being sectioned.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Scienke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:12 pm

I suppose I was thinking more about if they were mentally ill at the time that they committed the act of defamation but now they are well enough to be sued.

Can the respondent produce medical reports proving that they did not know what they were doing at the time they committed the defamation and would it make a difference to the proceedings.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Hairyloon » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:13 pm

Hairyloon wrote:I have no idea...
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby atticus » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:15 pm

I am not aware that this gives a defence per se. There may be plenty of good reasons not to sue: defamation litigation is a mug's game. It is not for ordinary people.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Scienke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:24 pm

atticus wrote:I am not aware that this gives a defence per se. There may be plenty of good reasons not to sue: defamation litigation is a mug's game. It is not for ordinary people.


If your defamer can't prove the statement made about you is true and he has the money to pay the damages and you can prove a financial loss because of the defamation, then what other barriers would there be to successfully suing? Enforcing the judgement?
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby atticus » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:07 pm

Plenty. Especially in online defamation cases. Read the Defamation Act 2013. A lot of online defamation cases fail to meet the requirements of that statute and are struck out.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:08 pm

The claimant needs to be able to prove serious harm, and there may be other defences open to the defendant even if the statement wasn't true.

Bringing an action like this could easily backfire. Not only could the allegations be spread to a wider audience, but in suing a vulnerable defendant the claimant might make himself look like a bully.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby shootist » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:47 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:Bringing an action like this could easily backfire. Not only could the allegations be spread to a wider audience, but in suing a vulnerable defendant the claimant might make himself look like a bully.


Indeed. Once a person has attained victim status they are immune from just about everything.
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Re: Barriers to succesfully suing a madman for defamation?

Postby Scienke » Wed Apr 26, 2017 7:12 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:The claimant needs to be able to prove serious harm, and there may be other defences open to the defendant even if the statement wasn't true.

Bringing an action like this could easily backfire. Not only could the allegations be spread to a wider audience, but in suing a vulnerable defendant the claimant might make himself look like a bully.


Good points. People may often say no smoke without fire although if the allegations can be proven to be untrue you might only be spreading that fact.
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