More than ten years ago I was involved in a couple of defamation matters that needed sorting.
A common misconception among punters is that there is a defence in not naming the person to which your publication or imputations refer.
If in fact the notoriety of the person (the “unnamed” plaintiff) or his or her business is such that readers of the material can make the connection to or identify the person by way of the facts (extrinsic or otherwise) in the publication – injury to reputation can be established if indeed it exists in the published material. It only needs to be established that at least one reader recognised the identity of the “unnamed” plaintiff for the alleged defamation to subsist.
The extent of the reputational harm and how it might be quantified, is of course problematical and a very complex matter.
During this interesting period in my life, I came across two wonderful books which I own – The Law of Defamation in Australia and New Zealand (Michael Gillooly) and The Law of Defamation and the Internet (Matthew Collins)
Both authors have a particularly sharp sense of humour. At the start of each chapter in the Gillooly book, there was a witty quote – the one that got me and still does is from an English “old school” editor, Richard Ingrams, who recently converted to Catholicism.
His motto is [I say]”….publish and be sued”. LOL, that says it all.
Unfortunately these two (heavily-based Aussie and State jurisdiction) books have probably fallen victim to the uniform defamation laws introduced here from 1 January 2006 – the Defamation Act 2005, thereby rendering them a little worn, but much of the content is and remains relevant.
And they still look impressive on my shelf in the hard-backed editions.