If you’ve been the victim of defamation and you want to take legal action against the defamer, your first step is to issue a concerns notice. A concerns notice is a document which outlines the defamatory statements, the date they were made, the party they were published to, the defamatory imputations that can be drawn from the publication, and the redress sought.
The party that published the defamatory statements will then have the chance to avoid defamation action being further pursued by making an offer to make amends.
According to the uniform laws of defamation in Australia, a notice is a concerns notice if it’s:
- in writing, and
- “informs the publisher of the defamatory imputations that the aggrieved person considers are or may be carried about the aggrieved person by the matter in question”.
The implications that the average reader could draw from a published statement are known as defamatory imputations. More than one defamatory imputation could be drawn from a single statement and they all need to be outlined in the concerns notice.
Defamatory imputations can be drawn in a few different ways: by taking the words at their face value, by reading between the lines, and by reading the statements in the context of the wider publication.
An offer to make amends after concerns notice
After receiving a concerns notice, the recipient (the defamatory material publisher) has 28 days to provide an offer to make amends. This offer has to be in writing and easily identified as an offer to make amends. It could come in the form of a written apology, a letter that states every defamatory statement is not true, a promise never to publish any more defamatory statements, a published correction, a retraction of the statements, or compensation.
If an offer to make amends isn’t made within the 28-day period, proceedings can be initiated against the defamer.
If you’re considering taking legal action after defamation, it’s important to seek expert legal advice to ensure you stay within the boundaries of Australian law.