Having regard to the laws of defamation and contempt, great care needs to be taken when contemplating any form of publication, whether it be a book, newspaper article, a web item, a broadcast by means of the electronic media, or otherwise.
The following is a checklist of some of the items that should be considered before publication:
- Is the item defamatory and if so can the truth of any allegations be proven?
- Is the item of legitimate public interest or concern?
- Have all necessary documents required to prove an allegation been procured and have all relevant avenues of enquiry been made?
- Is any expression of opinion contained in the story sufficiently distinguished from fact and are the facts upon which the opinion is based contained in the story or are they otherwise sufficiently well known?
- Have those likely to be defamed by the publication been given a reasonable opportunity to respond to each and every allegation in the item concerned and if so has that person’s response been properly incorporated therein?
- Has every effort been made to ensure that none of the sources of information relied upon for the purposes of the item are actuated by malice?
- Does the publication of the item breach any duty of confidentiality?
- Are the sources of the information relied upon prepared to give evidence in support of the story?
- If the item pertains to a Parliamentary or court proceedings, is it a fair and accurate and unbiased account of such proceedings?
- If the story pertains to any court proceedings have all efforts been made to ensure that no suppression orders have been made or that it doesn't contravene any legislative requirement?
- If the item pertains to any pending or ongoing criminal proceedings, it should not contain any details of the accused prior convictions, or a confession before it is put into evidence or any other prejudicial information.
- If the item pertains to a sexual offence the identity of the victim should not be revealed, nor should the identity of the accused person be revealed until they are committed for trial and then only if it is unlikely to identify the victim.
- The identity of children accused or convicted of a criminal offence cannot be published except by specific order of the court.