Considering a claim, in which the particulars state that words or phrases, often used in a colloquial manner, have caused or may cause financial and/or reputational damage to persons or businesses.

Examples given include:

  1. The manager is a parasite
  2. What they have done to the business is criminal
  3. They are raping the community coffers
  4. They are con artists
  5. The company is finished with him at the helm

What would be the best way to individually defend the claims against statements such as the above when used in every day context, and given that there is no specific reference to any actual dishonest activity or crime?

This question is concerning the United Kingdom and not the United States, which allows broader latitude under free speech.


In all these examples, adding the qualifier "in my personal opinion" removes virtually any and all defamation exposure.

  • How does that work? How is any of those statements anything other than the speaker's personal opinion, even if not qualified?
    – phoog
    Dec 18 '15 at 6:50
  • It does sound unrealistic that you can bolt on a phrase which removes defamation. If this is true I'm just going to punctuate everything I say with ',in my opinion anyway'.
    – Terry
    Dec 18 '15 at 7:39
  • I don't think you can just bolt on the phrase "in my opinion" to protect you from defamation, but in the cases of the phrases above, I don't see how they can be defamatory. They are all commonly used phrases, with meanings that imply something other than their strict definition. I just don't know the best was that this could be argued.
    – Paul
    Dec 18 '15 at 9:04
  • It comes down to what the definition of defamation is. If a statement is factually true, it is not defamatory. A statement declaring someone to be a criminal might be demonstrably false, but declaring your opinion about it will be demonstrably true.
    – dwoz
    Dec 18 '15 at 18:32

Prima facie, given their usual usage and definition, all the statements are defamatory. Best defense is the publication was limited so that damage would be negligible. The statements themselves are pretty indefensible.

  • Unless they're true.
    – phoog
    Dec 18 '15 at 6:51
  • @phoog unless the manager is a tapeworm he is not a parasite
    – Dale M
    Dec 18 '15 at 6:56
  • I don't see how they are indefensible? They are all commonly used phrases, much like a parent saying they will "kill" their misbehaving child, we don't naturally believe the parent is going to commit infanticide. Also, the strict definition of words such as parasite and con artist do not imply criminality without an explicit statement to that effect.
    – Paul
    Dec 18 '15 at 9:09
  • @DaleM to me it seems that your answer indicates you can't really insult people in the United-Kingdom, is that true?
    – Viktor
    Dec 18 '15 at 11:58
  • The U.K. Is not the USA; freedom of speech is not a right.
    – Dale M
    Dec 18 '15 at 12:32

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