Suppose someone sues me for defamation and I'm pronounced guilty, and I serve time in prison. Then after my sentence is complete it is discovered that the defamatory statement I made was true?

Am I guilty of defamation if I make statements that I don't know are true, but which are true?

And in both cases: If I am accused of defamation and my statements are found to be true, is my accuser himself guilty of defamation?

  • You can't serve time in prison for defamation; it's a civil tort, not a crime.
    – Vikki
    Feb 21, 2022 at 11:57
  • @Vikki Yes, in the FRG defamation is a criminal offense according to § 187 of the German penal code. Feb 4 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


With so many worries, how do you rest at night?

(I'm not a lawyer) Law is more interested in ill intent. If there was no ill intent, then the law is not interested and it would be a private case between both parties.

  1. If the defamation was made in court, and the information was known at the time to be wrong, then the court would likely follow perjury case against the person knowingly making a false claim
  2. If the defamation was made out of court, in public newspaper etc, then possible private court case between two parties. If there was a private prosecution, the court would decide if the defamation was spread with ill intent and/or little effort done to verify the information - This would help the court decide if any penalty should be light or heavy against the person spreading the information

Some more info...

There was a case in the UK courts some years back.... a well known politician/author got up close and personal with a prostitute. The papers wrote about it.

Politician sued newspapers 1) for lies and 2) for ruining his good name.

Politician won and the newspaper had to pay some financial compensation.

Some years later, it was discovered that politician did actually get up close with a prostitute and purjured himself in court by denying the affair.

Politician received a 4 year jail for the perjury and I'm not clear if he was chased to return the financial compensation. See old BBC news article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/812255.stm

The law viewed the lie under oath a serious offence.

If you defamed someone knowingly, and repeated it in a court of law, you would likely face similar rewards.

However if you spoke believing you were correct, and later proved that your information was false, I believe a private case between the two parties could take place because you ruined their good name. You might get away with a caution and a warning, and a request to make adverts in the paper that your original comments were later found to be untrue.

Different countries would view it differently.

Unfortunately in the US, it is legal for the news to spread false truth if they 'have reason' to believe its true. It is not clear on how much or how little effort much go to to ensure a story is valid. Watch a very good documentary called The Corporation (from 2001?) and it covers a test case.

  • 1
    If I'm not mistaken, a similar thing happened with Prime Minister John Major. Technically, it was not true that he was sleeping with Lady X, but he was sleeping with Lady Y at the time, and Lady X was put forth as a "decoy."
    – Libra
    Jun 4, 2017 at 2:28

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