False allegations - what are the legal implications?
There are many different scenarios in which somebody can be falsely accused and the correct response can, therefore, vary considerably. If the accusations could lead to criminal proceedings then clearly it is vital to get legal advice at the earliest possible stage.
If you are falsely accused of an offence you should contact a solicitor immediately for legal advice. Naturally, if you are accused of a criminal offence then you have the right to see a solicitor so that you are fully advised on how to defend yourself.
A solicitor will be able to advise you on the merits of the case, the likely outcome and your possible defences. If you have been convicted of an offence you did not commit then again a solicitor will be able to advise on the appeals process.
If you are accused of something falsely in the workplace then you should consult the employee handbook to see the individual company’s grievance procedure and then make a complaint.
It is important that if you are accused of something you did not do that you go on record denying the allegation.
If you feel the accusations are in anyway discriminatory against you or trying to force you to resign from your job you should contact an employment solicitor immediately.
The most common false accusation introduces a possible claim for defamation. Defamation claims arise in order to protect an individual’s reputation.
It is important to note that a defamation lawyer will be seeking compensation for damage to a claimant’s reputation and not simply for injured feelings.
Libel applies when the damage to an individual’s reputation has been caused by something which takes a permanent form, for example an article in a newspaper.
A defamation lawyer will find it easier to bring a claim in libel rather than slander, as the permanency of libel is deemed to be more serious.
Solicitors face more obstacles bringing a claim for slander, which takes a temporary form, such as a verbal accusation. This is more difficult as it is harder to prove the event occurred and it is likely that fewer people will have heard the remarks and thus there may be only limited damage to reputation.
A lawyer bringing a defamation case on your behalf will need to show that the defamatory remarks are about you and that other people know they are about you. If nobody else realised the comments were about you then your reputation will not have been affected and you will have no claim in defamation. They will then need to show that the remarks have caused your reputation to drop in the eyes of the people who heard/read the remarks.
The main defence to defamation is if the statement was, in fact, true. A solicitor will also be able to raise a defence if the comments were in the public interest, and are deemed reasonable comment in a democratic society. This usually occurs in the 'comment’ section of a newspaper.
If you feel you have been falsely accused of something you should contact a solicitor who will be able to give specific advice according to your circumstances.