Due to a separation, I've heard mention of my ex-partner thinking about an "Occupancy Order" which basically sets out who can live in a marital home.

These are, as it turns out, distinct from something called a "Non-Molestation Order", which are primarily concerned with keeping domestic abuse perpetrators away from their victims.

However, seeing as I'd never heard any of this before I had to Google it. Although there is a definite distinction between the two (and I definitely DO NOT fit into the latter category), almost EVERY SINGLE article online bunch them together - probably for good reason - but it took a long time to realise they are not the same thing (i.e. being a respondent of an Occupation Order does NOT imply domestic abuse).

So whilst I now understand the difference, the fact that the two are so intrinsically linked on the internet, I'm worried that people will hear about this, Google it, and then incorrectly think I'm some sort of wife-beater.

Is there any precedent, in the UK, for defamation / moral injury in these circumstance where someone's character is damaged due to the widespread misunderstandings and ignorance of the general public?

EDIT: Changed from "Occupation Order" to "Occupancy Order", which is the term used originally, and really changes the context of search results.

  • I've just googled "Occupation Order" and the top result is from Shelter. It makes no mention at all of "Non-Molestation Order". The second is a UK government page describing remedies available, and the third is a law firm which clearly explains the difference. Aug 15, 2023 at 10:48
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    If your ex-partner is "thinking about" an Occupation Order, they should read the law site too: An occupation order regulates the occupation of the property. Such orders are granted in very serious circumstances as it can exclude someone from the home in which they are legally entitled to live i.e. they jointly or solely own the property. For this reason, there are very strict tests for such an order to be granted. Aug 15, 2023 at 10:55
  • @WeatherVane In fairness, I've used the "correct" name here... but the name that was used is when I heard it was "Occupancy Order" which really changes the mood of the results... I'm going to update my question to reflect this. Aug 15, 2023 at 11:02
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    If such a precedent existed, who would you expect to be the defendant? The public? Like "you, the public, have got it all wrong, and that defames/injures me"?
    – Greendrake
    Aug 15, 2023 at 11:05
  • @WeatherVane (your second comment) I understand this now, and feel the likelihood of success it miniscule, but I feel even a failed attempt - if in the public domain - would have a massive bearing on how things are perceived. Aug 15, 2023 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


(and probably everywhere else)

  1. You can't sue the general public. You don't have an entity to sue.

  2. If the statement doesn't refer to you, you don't have standing to bring a defamation claim about the statement. To succeed in a defamation claim, the claimant must (among other things) persuade the court that the defamatory statement refers to the claimant.

  3. The statements themselves are not defamatory about anyone. They explain 'occupation orders', 'occupancy orders' and other kinds of court orders.

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