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Absolute privilege

Some statements are absolutely privileged, so that there can be no action for defamation even if the words were false and were published with malice. Statements that are protected by absolute privilege are those which are made in [s 25]:

  • parliamentary proceedings
  • reports published by order of parliament
  • proceedings of courts or similar bodies
  • statements made in legal proceedings
  • certain communications between officers of State, for example Ministers acting in their official roles and certain officials of government acting in the course of their official duties.

public documents

The Defamation Act 2005 also provides a broad defence for the publication of defamatory matter contained in public documents [s 26].

information published by the Crown

When the Crown (the government) provides information under the Freedom of Information Act 1991, it is protected from any liability for defamation [s 50 Freedom of Information Act 1991].

The Crown (from 2 October 2015) also cannot be sued for defamation for publication of certain other information as set out in the Civil Liability Regulations 2013. The Civil Liability Act 1936 envisages that the Crown may wish to make information public on its own initative rather than in response to a Freedom of Information Act application [s 75A]. Under the Regulations, the Crown has no civil liability for publication of the following types of information [reg 26]:

  • information (other than information relating to the personal affairs of a person) contained in a document to which access has been granted pursuant to an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1991
  • information contained in a document of a kind to which access would (having regard to any policy document applicable to the relevant agency) be likely to be granted pursuant to an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1991
  • information contained in contracts or other documents disclosed pursuant to a policy document
  • information released pursuant to a disclosure policy (however described) that applies to the whole of Government
  • information released in accordance with the Declaration of Open Data
  • information consisting of submissions from members of the public made in the course of consultation undertaken by the Government.
Absolute privilege  :  Last Revised: Fri Sep 25th 2015
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