Ten tips for avoiding a libel suit

  1. Always double check your facts.

  2. State clearly the identity of those against whom any allegations are made and if there is any ambiguity remove it – i.e. say ‘there is no suggestion that x was involved’…or….’no other police officers at the scene are said to have used racist language,’ etc.

  3. Put details of all allegations to anyone who is accused of wrong-doing or bad behaviour in your piece – preferably in writing, and invite them to respond.

  4. Make every effort to reach those against whom any allegations are made and give them a reasonable time to respond.

  5. Even if you receive no formal comment, include the gist of any counter-argument or response the accused party has made to you directly or made elsewhere.

  6. Beware of inference and innuendo which may suggest wrongdoing (both can be defamatory).

  7. Be sure of witnesses or case studies who say they are willing to back up your story (ask them directly if they would be willing to appear in court if needed).

  8. Keep clearly dated records of all conversations and email and other correspondence.

  9. Keep the tone of your article or broadcast balanced and measured.

  10. Talk to the lawyers at the publication or broadcaster you are working for early on if you expect a legal challenge.