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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70694
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am a professional woodturner of 25 years with I believe a

Resolved Question:

I am a professional woodturner of 25 years with I believe a good standing and reputation within the world of woodturning. The following statement appeared in a publication "a not too informed professional turner" and I was contacted by a colleague who believed it referred to me. Another colleague believes the same. The organisation who published the article claim they acted in good faith believing this to be just an opinion of the author and making no enquires published an unedited version.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

What would you like to know about this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I am afraid that although the article did not name me I am easily identifiable by the content of the article. I fear it will affect my reputation and possible future earnings. What can I do about it.?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Is there any reason you think you would be easily identified from that statement? It seems quite generic.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


The content of the article was about a technique I use when turning (use of cabinet scraper). I've demonstrated this at many clubs over the last 10 years and know of no other professional turner who does. I was also made aware of the article by a fellow turner prior to my reading it. He identified me from the article. I asked another turner to read the article and he couldn't think of anyone else it could apply to.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for that.

These comments may be defamatory. Defamation takes two forms. One is slander which covers the spoken word. The other is libel which covers the written.

You have to prove that the words are defamatory, that they would be understood to refer to you and that they have been published to a 3rd party.

Comments made directly to a person about themselves are not published and so cannot be defamatory however bad or untrue they are. If such contact were to continue it might amount to harassment.

There is no set definition of defamation. A statement is likely to be considered defamatory if it tends to do anyone of the following.

1 lower the claimant in the estimation of right minded members of society

2 disparage the claimant in his business, trade, office or profession

3 expose the claimant to hatred, ridicule or contempt or

4 cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided

An opinion, however, is not generally defamatory. People are entitled to an opinion under the human rights act and, indeed, under the common law generally. However, a person cannot hide behind the argument that a defamatory comment is just an opinion. For instance, if the person were to say “in my opinion, X is a liar with 15 convictions for theft" then that would be defamatory unless it were true. The opinion must be fair with some basis for it. It must be shown that it was a reasonable comments in all the circumstances.

Similarly, foul abuse is not defamatory although there might be other actions open to an aggrieved person.

Truth is a defence to defamation. The defendant would have to prove that it was the truth and that is reasonably hard to do so this defence is not often relied upon.

The real difficulty with defamation actions though is that they are very expensive. Unfortunately they are the domain of the very rich. That is not to say that you couldn't send a letter from a local solicitor for reasonable cost warning this person of the laws of libel and slander.

Also, you may want to consider other alternatives. This may amount to harassment which you can report to the police or sue at the civil courts much more economically. It might also be a malicious communication and you can report that to the police.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need any more information.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Does the fact that 2 others to date have told me they believe it refers to me mean it can be considered to be libellous? Would it help if you saw the whole paragraph of the article as when read it to me it would appear to imply that it's more than an opinion the author is expressing.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No, it means that it would support the proposition that it relates to you.

In truth, I think its very much borderline as to whether this is a defamation. Bearing in mind that a clear case of defamation would be something like accusing a person of sexual offences or dishonesty.

Certainly an implication that you are not very good at your job is a defamation. I don't think he will get anywhere with the suggestion that this is just an opinion really.

The question will be what does 'not too well informed' mean. It could imply that you are not good at your job or it could imply a number of other things.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Reading the article I would say I'm not too good at my job. RPT is Registered Professional Turner, an organisation supported by the Worshipful Company of Turners.


"A well know RPT tutor was giving a demonstration on bowl turning at our local woodturning club and one of his tips was to use a cabinet scraper to help in the finishing Process and proceeded to use the scraper while the lathe was doing about 1000 RPM. Rule No 1; never use a cabinet scraper while the lathe is turning. Then someone asked the tutor how did he sharpen the scraper and to my amazement he stated that it was easy, place the scraper on the horizontal platform of your grinder and move the scraper across the stone to produce a burr. It was at this stage in the demo that I cringed in my seat. Had I heard him correctly?, yes he really meant waht he said and it was this moment I decided to write this article in an attempt to enlighten those gullible enough to follow instructions expounded by a not too informed professional woodturner."


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Yes, that is clearly the implication.

His only defence will be either truth or fair comment then.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I would obviously dispute truth but what do you mean by "fair comment"?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Reasonable comments in all the circumstances. Much easier to raise than truth. Not many defamations are defended on the basis of truth now.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

 



At all demos I do I make a request right at the start for any questions or comments on anything I do. The author did not do this but choose to publish the article. The body that published it say I have to wait 3 months until the next publication for a right to reply. Would that be considered acceptable?


Would you consider the article fair comment?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I don't think the fact that he didn't raise it at the time means that it isn't a fair comment necessarily I'm afraid.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


What about having to wait 3 months to publish a reply to the article?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I don't think delay is a good point here I'm afraid.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Do I have any right to expect a quicker right to reply from the publishers. I don't see by they can't send a letter out to all members before September.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I'm not sure what you mean?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


The organisation is capable of contacting all members (recipients of the publication) at any time. If I choose to reply to the article do I have any legal right to expect it to be done asap?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Not a legal right although I suppose if you sued them for defamation as the publisher then you could argue that they failed to respond expeditiously but its not a particularly useful point.
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