Absolute privilege

Absolute privilege is a defence to an action for defamation.

The law recognises that there are some situations in which there should be freedom of speech.  The law therefore provides that absolute protection or privilege is provided to ensure that freedom of speech exists in given situations.

Absolute privilege is recognised in a number of circumstances including:

  • communications between lawyer and client;
  • communications between officers of state;
  • statements made in either House of Parliament.  This is provided for by the The Bill of Rights 1689  but may be waived under section 13 of the Defamation Act 1966;
  • Hansard as it is an official report of the proceedings of parliament;
  • statements made in the course of judicial proceedings, and this covers judges, juries, lawyers, parties and witnesses.  Members of the public are not entitled to this protection;
  • 'fair, accurate and contemporaneous' reports of court proceedings made by the press and broadcasters under section3 of the Law of Libel Amandment Act 1888 and section9 (2) of the Defamation Act 1952 respectively.

The law recognises that there are certain ‘privileged occasions’ when publishers should be able to speak or write freely despite the fact that what they are publishing is defamatory. A fair, accurate and contemporaneous report of proceedings in public before any court in the United Kingdom will be absolutely privileged, even if it refers to defamatory allegations made by the parties to those proceedings. This is very significant for newspaper court reporters.

BBC Bitesize - GCSE Journalism - Media law, ethics and regulation

Related Items

The items below list this as being related in some way.

Amazon's recommended Books

RSS Feeds