Bob and Rob have an argument and end up fighting. Bob was acting in self-defense but got convicted of assaulting Rob.

The newspaper released the following false statement.

“Bob, aged 00 and of Road, state, convicted of assaulting a person by beating her in Road on 00 00 0000. Fined $$$$, to pay $$$$ compensation, to pay a $$$$ surcharge, to pay $$$$ costs.”

Would this be just a simple error as it should be he and the keyboard words because they are too close by and therefore just a simple mistake?

Bob is not sure, is it the correct way grammatically he or him?

Here the newspaper follows the Independent Press Standards Organization’s (IPSO).

The IPSO paragraph 1, clause i);

“ The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. ” - https://www.ipso.co.uk/media/2032/ecop-2021-ipso-version-pdf.pdf

What are Bob options here?

  • Bob here have another issues as consequence of this false statement. The statement has been used by an AI to decide whether or not Bob could have access to his children. IT might look as JUST an error with typing 'her' however the statement contributed to agencies (social services and other child services) and the mother who used that to separate Bob from his daughters.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 8:53
  • Yes that would be accurate, the pronoun "her" is wrong as Rob is a male. Here bob wants to know what would be the correct pronoun "he or him" to identify if was a genuine error or actual malice of the newspaper.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 9:58
  • The press to avoid defamation claims make use of reliable witnesses in the process of running the statements Online, to validate and confirm the statement as true and genuine. This is not just a simple error. Defamation should have 3 elements; false statement of Bob publicised by a Third party. 1. There was never a Her involved it was a male/him false statement. (check) 2. It is about bob. (check) 3. publicised by a Third party. (check)
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


Option one, Bob asks the newspaper to issue a correction. Should they refuse, or take an undue amount of time to issue the correction, or the correction is not as prominent as the original story (ie on at least the same page number and placement as the original story, not buried at the back of the paper), then Bob moves on to option two.

Option two, register a complaint with IPSO - anyone can do it, but theres no guarantee that IPSO will do anything as this isn't a serious breach of any guidelines and is more akin to a typo (the bulk of the statement is undisputed, including the conviction, fine etc), but that depends on what the body of the story if any - does it corroborate the actual facts or does it have the same typo?

Lastly, Bob has the option of taking legal action, but there probably isn't going to be a huge payout here, Bob might end up with a court order for the newspaper to correct its statement, but its going to be under the same guidelines as above - equivalent exposure as the original statement. For any significant amount of damages, Bob would have to convince a court that being accused of assaulting a woman is worse than being accused of assaulting a man, and that may indeed be true in some societies, but whether its substantial or not is the issue.

Bob might win court costs, and Bob might win a token amount of damages, but likely nothing substantial if anything at all. This is the nuclear option however, likely to be costly, time consuming and ultimately the reward probably isn't reflective of those hassles in this case.

While I was typing this, I did start wondering about whether the statement could even be considered wrong in todays society - what if Rob identifies as a woman, and the newspaper picked up on that? Something interesting to mull over.

  • Note that in any lawsuit for defamation, the party suing wouldn't get their attorney fees, so the case would be a net loss to both parties. Also, if the error were in the source that the paper relied upon rather than an editorial error of the paper itself, the paper would have no liability, and the source would probably have governmental immunity.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 5, 2021 at 0:25
  • @ohwilleke in the UK, which I assumed based on the link to the Independent Press Standards Organization, you can definitely ask for costs to be awarded in defamation cases - whether they are or not is up to the judge. See the famous McLibel case for this - McDonalds sought costs, but was not awarded them as the judge felt it to be unfair.
    – user28517
    Aug 5, 2021 at 0:42
  • I was assuming U.S. law, but, of course, neither the question, nor your answer, clearly specified it (and I didn't catch the British affiliation of the link). I added a tag for clarity.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 5, 2021 at 0:46
  • Yes this is in the UK, thanks for adding the tag.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 9:13
  • Hi thanks for the answer, the question raised is valid so another topic, that I created here: law.stackexchange.com/questions/70455/… -- How todays society would consider a statement with an error, If that error included Her instead of Him?
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 9:36

Addressing the title of this question, there is almost zero chance of bringing a defamation claim. This is because of section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 which provides:

"A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant."

Parliament's intention in drafting this section was to "raise the bar" and ensure that the high threshold prevents trivial cases from being brought to court.

It is hard to see how a simple gender error should cause serious harm to Bob's reputation (compared to the harm he would have suffered anyway had the sentence been correct).

Edited in response to OP's comments:

I am not disputing that the statement as a whole causes serious harm to Bob's reputation. However, it appears from what you have said that every word in the statement is true except the word "her". Section 2(1) of the Act provides a defence where a statement is substantially true.

The question for the courts then will be whether the word "her" has caused serious harm. I.e. is there a material difference between the following two statements whereby the first statement causes serious harm in a way that the second statement does not:

  1. "Bob, aged [x] and of [address], convicted of assaulting a person by beating her in [address] on [date]."
  2. "Bob, aged [x] and of [address], convicted of assaulting a person by beating him in [address] on [date]."

To bring a claim, you will be required to satisfy section 1(1) of the Act. You will have to show evidence that it was specifically the error with the gender which caused Bob serious harm. You will have to overcome what is likely to be the defendant's assertion that the serious harm came from the violent assault rather than the gender of the victim. To do so you will likely have to convince the court that all of the subsequent consequences to Bob (being denied access to his children etc.) have come about purely because the victim was purported to be a female, and that he would not have faced these consequences had it been known the victim was male.

  • Bob is a Father of girls, The statement has caused damaged to the reputation as it was viewed by Bob's children nursery school, pre school, social services, and other child support agencies, that now thinks Bob is a dangerous person because of "beating her" and Bob a male started to be completely treated different by the opposite gender that has completely control of his children.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:50
  • serious harm, this comment have the power to encourage social movements, volunteers and feminist advocate for social justice, political movements, and other ideologies that aim directly to atack Bob the “Defamed Subject” as male beating woman as result of the untrue and completely false statement.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:50
  • The allegations struck at the core of the Bob characters and reputations, hurting the feelings, causing distress and humiliation.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:52
  • Serious harm to social life, emotional wellbeing and business.
    – learnpath
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:54
  • @learnpath I edited the answer.
    – JBentley
    Aug 5, 2021 at 11:03

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