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Post by maven »

What is defamation?

A defamatory statement is something that lowers a person or organisation in the public esteem. Verbal defamation is slander, written or recorded defamation (including online) is libel. We will not tolerate any posts that are potentially defamatory, so please avoid making allegations against individuals or organisations, as these will be removed by the moderators.

The reputations of different people and professions will be harmed in different ways, and the consequences can range from quite minor to very serious. The UK has very strong laws to protect against defamation, and a case can be brought to seek compensation where something is said about a person or organisation that cannot be proven to be true, with very large payouts being awarded if the court feels that the statement might have a negative impact on the income of the person or organisation. Unusually, in a defamation case it is down to the writer or publisher of such a statement to prove that it is true, rather than the subject to prove that it is false.

We therefore need to caution our members against making defamatory statements on the forum. A statement like "NHS psychology departments are corrupt and abusive" is unhelpful and unlikely to be true, but probably not defamatory, as its terms are too wide to identify any specific individual or organisation. BUT "Organsation X is corrupt and abusive" may defame a specific organisation and/or all staff of a course or department, even if no individuals are mentioned by name. "Person X is an idiot" is probably abusive and unhelpful, and would be moderated here for that reason, but it is not defamatory. "Person X is an incompetent bully" is defamatory, unless you could convince a court of the truth of that very broad statement.

In order to defend against an allegation of defamation you have to establish that a statement is both true and fair comment on a matter of public interest (NOT just 'of interest to the public' but important for the public to know). This means that you would need evidence and witnesses to present at court to verify the statement, and you would have to establish that there was good reason to publish the information, and that you made the statement without malice or ill-intent. In the case of defamation or libel action, the statements are assumed false unless proved true, and the amounts of legal costs and compensation awarded, and the legal costs involved, can be massive.

Repeating someone else's defamatory allegations can make the repeater as liable as the original source. Merely adding "it is alleged that" or "it is rumoured that" will not help.

So, how is that relevant to posting on this forum?

As a poster on, you could be sued for libel for what you say on this forum. Anyone can read your posts, so what you write here is in the public domain. Please bear this in mind at all times when posting here, or any other internet forum for that matter. An increasing number of individuals and organisations have legal or professional insurance, and that means that if they complain about what you have written, they can do so using the legal system and something that started out quite little can suddenly become a major issue with financial and professional repercussions that can spiral quickly. Once the courts are involved, we cannot withhold information about a member's identity and may be ordered to provide your registration details and the IP addresses associated with the account.

As a publisher, there is precedent that the hosts of the forum could be sued for what anyone posts, even though we have clear disclaimers saying that what is posted is the view of the individual and not the publisher, and a complaints policy that lets any person contact us to raise concerns about any content that is potentially defamatory. The admins and owner of the forum include identifiable qualified Clinical Psychologists who would not want to be held accountable for any defamatory content written on it. We therefore need to be fairly conservative in preventing this situation from occurring.

Related to these legal issues is the matter of 'bringing the profession into disrepute'. Again, there are responsibilities and liabilities as a poster if you are a BPS member or regulated by the HCPC. Even if you are not, many of the mods and admins are BPS members and practitioner psychologists under the HCPC (with others hoping to be one day) and bound by their Codes of Conduct. These codes of conduct include important concepts like treating service users and colleagues with respect, and ensuring we provide good quality information for the public, and raise rather than lower the public perception of our profession.

In practical terms this means that postings need to be kept professional to keep us out of trouble. We want to prevent potential stress for our moderators and administrators, but we also want the site to be something we can be proud to be associated with, not feel we have to distance ourselves from. As such, we will be assertive in removing or editing posts which are potentially defamatory, or could bring the profession into disrepute, as soon as we become aware of them. We hope that you would agree that this is reasonable, and will try to avoid making any potentially defamatory postings.

What to do if you read something defamatory

We rely on our members to draw to our attention any posts which are potentially defamatory, and there is a button on each post to report any inappropriate or questionable content. You can also PM an admin or moderator to raise a concern.

If you believe a post has been defamatory about you, or an organisation you represent, please email us at and we will respond as quickly as possible.
Last edited by maven on Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare
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