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This guide provides information about defamation and the support available.


Defamation is a false statement which discredits a person's character or reputation. If it is spoken it is called slander.  If it is published in print (including digital print), or through some form of media, it is called libel.

A defamatory statement is one that is communicated to at least one person other than the subject. It is usually in the form of spoken or written words, but may also include media such as photographs and cartoons.

Starting legal proceedings

Legal proceedings must begin within one year of the act of libel or slander otherwise the claim will be time-barred. Public funding (Legal Aid) is not available for defamation cases.

Support from the RCN

The RCN will not directly support a claim of defamation except in highly exceptional circumstances where the defamation relates to a significant issue for the RCN or the nursing profession as a whole.

Your membership gives you 30 minutes free legal advice on non-work matters including defamation, providing it is not connected to your workplace. Find out more about our free legal service where you can also access the online application form.  

Bullying, harassment and stress

Find out how to tackle bullying at work, or deal with accusations of bullying.

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Page last updated - 29/12/2023