Citation(2020) 32 SAcLJ 332
Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020

1 Determining the quantum of damages in defamation actions is not an exact science. It requires a consideration of a gamut of factors such as the gravity of the defamatory allegations, the standing of the plaintiff and defendant (as the maker of the statement), the extent of publication and the defendant's conduct in the publication of the defamatory statements. These factors have to be applied against benchmarks found in case precedents taking into account the specific aims of the award namely to vindicate plaintiff's reputation, as consolation for injury to an individual's feelings or to repair the harm to reputation. The assessment of damages must be therefore based on the consistent and principled application of the relevant factors and benchmarks in achieving its aims.

2 In this regard, the Practitioners' Guide on Damages Awarded for Defamation Cases in Singapore (“Practitioners' Guide”) — which had reviewed cases filed in the Supreme Court and State Courts from 2006 to 2017 that culminated in awards of damages (cut-off date as of 8 August 2019) — offers valuable information on damages awards and more. It contains introductory chapters covering an overview of defamation law and its legal sources as well as practical considerations as to the parties who can sue or be sued in the tort of defamation. This is supplemented by discrete chapters on the procedural aspects of commencing a defamation action (chapter 3), the more substantive elements of defamation (chapter 4), defences (chapter 5) and remedies (chapter 6). The final four chapters give an overview of the damages awarded in defamation cases (chapter 7) followed by clear and detailed descriptions of the reasons for each award in the specific case summaries. Each of the summaries contains a brief summary of facts, holding on the legal issues and the reasoning (including discussion of case precedents) underlying the

assessment of damages. Significantly, the section includes updates on the appeals (if any) against the decisions at first instance.

3 The case summaries are categorised according to whether they involved (a) slander (chapter 8); (b) mixed slander and libel (chapter 9); or (c) libel (chapter 10). A quick browse of the case summaries will reveal that libel through online modes such as e-mails, social media, instant message services and postings on online forums have become more prevalent in Singapore. Further, the study showed that damages awarded in slander are generally lower than...

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