Canadian Criminal Law/Offences/Defamatory Libel

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Legislation[edit]

Defamatory Libel

...

Punishment of libel known to be false
300. Every one who publishes a defamatory libel that he knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 264.

Punishment for defamatory libel
301. Every one who publishes a defamatory libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 265.

Extortion by libel
302. (1) Every one commits an offence who, with intent

(a) to extort money from any person, or
(b) to induce a person to confer on or procure for another person an appointment or office of profit or trust,

publishes or threatens to publish or offers to abstain from publishing or to prevent the publication of a defamatory libel.

Idem
(2) Every one commits an offence who, as the result of the refusal of any person to permit money to be extorted or to confer or procure an appointment or office of profit or trust, publishes or threatens to publish a defamatory libel.

Punishment
(3) Every one who commits an offence under this section is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 266.

[1]

Proof of the Offence[edit]

There are three offences relating to Defamatory Libel. The Crown will generally prove the following for each offence:

Publishing Defamatory Libel Known to be False

  1. identity of the accused as the culprit
  2. the jurisdiction of the incident
  3. the time and date of the incident
  4. the accused publishes materials
  5. the materials is defamatory libel
  6. accused knows the materials is false

Publishing Defamatory Libel

  1. identity of the accused as the culprit
  2. the jurisdiction of the incident
  3. the time and date of the incident
  4. accused publishes materials
  5. the materials is defamatory libel

Extortion by Libel

  1. identity of the accused as the culprit
  2. the jurisdiction of the incident
  3. the time and date of the incident
  4. accused does any one of the prohibited conduct:
    1. publishes,
    2. threatens to publish,
    3. offers to abstain from publishing, or
    4. offers to prevent the publishing
  5. the subject matter of publishing is defamatory libel
  6. accused intended to either
    1. extort money from any person or
    2. induce the person to confer on or procure for another person an appointment or office of profit or trust.

Interpretation[edit]

The offence of publishing defamatory libel under s. 301 is of no force and effect as it violates s. 2 of the Charter is not savable under s. 1 of the Charter.[1]

  1. R v Lucas (1995) 129 Sask R 53 (QB)
    R. v. Byron Prior, 2008 NLTD 80
    R. v. Gill, 1996 CarswellOnt 1314 (Gen. Div.)

Defamatory Libel defined[edit]

Definition
298. (1) A defamatory libel is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.

Mode of expression
(2) A defamatory libel may be expressed directly or by insinuation or irony

(a) in words legibly marked on any substance; or
(b) by any object signifying a defamatory libel otherwise than by words.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 262.

CCC

Publishing defined[edit]

Publishing
299. A person publishes a libel when he

(a) exhibits it in public;
(b) causes it to be read or seen; or
(c) shows or delivers it, or causes it to be shown or delivered, with intent that it should be read or seen by the person whom it defames or by any other person.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 263.

CCC

Defences[edit]

Fair Reporting[edit]

Fair report of public meeting
308. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes in good faith, in a newspaper, a fair report of the proceedings of any public meeting if

(a) the meeting is lawfully convened for a lawful purpose and is open to the public;
(b) the report is fair and accurate;
(c) the publication of the matter complained of is for the public benefit; and
(d) he does not refuse to publish in a conspicuous place in the newspaper a reasonable explanation or contradiction by the person defamed in respect of the defamatory matter.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 272.

CCC

Public Benefit[edit]

Public benefit
309. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes defamatory matter that, on reasonable grounds, he believes is true, and that is relevant to any subject of public interest, the public discussion of which is for the public benefit.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 273.

CCC

Fair Comment[edit]

Fair comment on public person or work of art
310. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes fair comments

(a) on the public conduct of a person who takes part in public affairs; or
(b) on a published book or other literary production, or on any composition or work of art or performance publicly exhibited, or on any other communication made to the public on any subject, if the comments are confined to criticism thereof.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 274.

CCC

Truth[edit]

When truth a defence
311. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel where he proves that the publication of the defamatory matter in the manner in which it was published was for the public benefit at the time when it was published and that the matter itself was true.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 275.

CCC


Necessity or Invitation[edit]

Publication invited or necessary
312. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes defamatory matter

(a) on the invitation or challenge of the person in respect of whom it is published, or
(b) that it is necessary to publish in order to refute defamatory matter published in respect of him by another person,

if he believes that the defamatory matter is true and it is relevant to the invitation, challenge or necessary refutation, as the case may be, and does not in any respect exceed what is reasonably sufficient in the circumstances.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 276.

CCC


Answer to Inquiries[edit]

313. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes, in answer to inquiries made to him, defamatory matter relating to a subject-matter in respect of which the person by whom or on whose behalf the inquiries are made has an interest in knowing the truth or who, on reasonable grounds, the person who publishes the defamatory matter believes has such an interest, if

(a) the matter is published, in good faith, for the purpose of giving information in answer to the inquiries;
(b) the person who publishes the defamatory matter believes that it is true;
(c) the defamatory matter is relevant to the inquiries; and
(d) the defamatory matter does not in any respect exceed what is reasonably sufficient in the circumstances.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 277.

CCC

To Persons Interested[edit]

Giving information to person interested
314. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes to another person defamatory matter for the purpose of giving information to that person with respect to a subject-matter in which the person to whom the information is given has, or is believed on reasonable grounds by the person who gives it to have, an interest in knowing the truth with respect to that subject-matter if

(a) the conduct of the person who gives the information is reasonable in the circumstances;
(b) the defamatory matter is relevant to the subject-matter; and
(c) the defamatory matter is true, or if it is not true, is made without ill-will toward the person who is defamed and is made in the belief, on reasonable grounds, that it is true.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 278.

CCC

Good Faith Redress[edit]

Publication in good faith for redress of wrong
315. No person shall be deemed to publish a defamatory libel by reason only that he publishes defamatory matter in good faith for the purpose of seeking remedy or redress for a private or public wrong or grievance from a person who has, or who on reasonable grounds he believes has, the right or is under an obligation to remedy or redress the wrong or grievance, if

(a) he believes that the defamatory matter is true;
(b) the defamatory matter is relevant to the remedy or redress that is sought; and
(c) the defamatory matter does not in any respect exceed what is reasonably sufficient in the circumstances.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 279.

CCC