Libel and Defamation

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Libel
L.R.O.

Current Authorised Pages
Pages Authorised
(inclusive) by L.R.O.
1–6 ..
7–9 ..

Act
11 of 1845
Amended by

29 of 1925
20 of 1936
136/1976
45 of 1979
2 of 2014

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

LIBEL AND DEFAMATION ACT
CHAPTER 11:16

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Note on Subsidiary Legislation
This Chapter contains no subsidiary legislation.

2 Chap. 11:16 Libel and Defamation

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Libel and Defamation Chap. 11:16 3

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

L.R.O.

CHAPTER 11:16

LIBEL AND DEFAMATION ACT
ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS

SECTION
1. Short title.
2. When action for defamation maintainable.
3. The truth may be pleaded by way of justification.
4. Offer of apology admissible in mitigation of damages.
5. Actions against newspaper.
6. Words imputing unchastity to woman, actionable.
7. Costs in civil actions.
8. False, defamatory libel.
9. (Repealed by Act No. 2 of 2014).
10. Proceedings on trial of indictment for defamatory libel.
11. Evidence to rebut prima facie case of publication by an agent.
12. Costs in private prosecutions.
13. Newspaper reports of proceedings in Court privileged.
Restriction on publication of reports of judicial proceedings.
Penalties.
Who may be convicted.
Exceptions.
14. Newspaper reports of proceedings of public meetings and of certain

bodies and persons privileged.
15. Consolidation of actions.
16. Power to defendant to give certain evidence in mitigation of

damages.
17. Sanction of Director of Public Prosecutions required for prosecution.

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

1950 Ed.
Ch. 4. No. 10.
11 of 1845.
Commencement.

Short title.

When action for
defamation
maintainable.

The truth may
be pleaded by
way of
justification.

Offer of
apology
admissible in
mitigation of
damages.

Actions against
newspaper.

CHAPTER 11:16

LIBEL AND DEFAMATION ACT

An Act respecting defamatory words and libel.

[26TH JANUARY 1846]

1. This Act may be cited as the Libel and Defamation Act.

2. No action for defamation shall be maintainable in any
Court of justice in Trinidad and Tobago in respect of words
spoken, except in those cases in which an action would be
maintainable in respect of the same words in England.

3. In any action for defamation or for libel, the defendant
may plead the truth of the matters charged by way of justification
in the same manner as he might do in a like action in a Court in
England and the plea shall be a sufficient answer in law to any
such action; and if, on the issue joined on such plea, a verdict is
given for the defendant, the defendant shall have final judgment
and recover his costs of suit.

4. In any action for defamation, the defendant may (after
notice in writing of his intention to do so duly given to the
plaintiff at the time of filing or delivering the plea in the action)
give in evidence in mitigation of damages, that he made or
offered an apology to the plaintiff for the defamation before the
commencement of the action or as soon afterwards as he had an
opportunity of doing so in case the action was commenced before
there was an opportunity of making or offering the apology.

5. In any action for a libel contained in any public newspaper
or other periodical publication, it shall be competent to the defendant
to plead that the libel was inserted in the newspaper or other
periodical publication without actual malice, and without gross
negligence, and that before the commencement of the action, or at
the earliest opportunity afterwards, he inserted in the newspaper or
other periodical publication a full apology for the libel, or, if the

4 Chap. 11:16 Libel and Defamation

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Libel and Defamation Chap. 11:16 5

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

L.R.O.

Words imputing
unchastity to
woman,
actionable.

Costs in civil
actions.
[45 of 1979].

False,
defamatory
libel.

Proceedings on
trial of
indictment for
defamatory
libel.

newspaper or periodical publication in which the libel appeared is
ordinarily published at intervals exceeding one week, had offered to
publish the apology in any newspaper or periodical publication to be
selected by the plaintiff in the action; and every such defendant shall,
upon filing such plea, be at liberty to pay into Court a sum of money
by way of amends for the injury sustained by the publication of the
libel; and the payment into Court shall be of the same effect and be
available in the same manner and to the same extent as any payment
into Court under the rules of the Supreme Court.

6. Words spoken and published which impute unchastity or
adultery to any woman or girl shall not require special damage to
render them actionable; but in any action for words spoken and
made actionable by this section, a plaintiff shall not recover more
costs than damages, unless the Court certifies that there was
reasonable ground for bringing the action.

7. In all actions for libel or slanderous words spoken, to be
sued or prosecuted by any person in the High Court, if upon the
trial the damages are found and assessed under one hundred
dollars, then the plaintiff in the action shall have and recover only
so much costs as the damages so given or assessed amount to,
any law, custom, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

8. If any person maliciously publishes any defamatory libel,
knowing the same to be false, he is liable on conviction to
imprisonment for two years and to pay such fine as the Court directs.

9. (Repealed by Act No. 2 of 2014).

10. (1) On the trial of any indictment for a defamatory libel,
the defendant having pleaded the plea as mentioned in this
section, the truth of the matters charged may be enquired into, but
shall not amount to a defence, unless it was for the public benefit
that the matters charged should be published; and to entitle the
defendant to give evidence of the truth of the matters charged as
a defence to the indictment, it shall be necessary for the

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Evidence to
rebut prima
facie case of
publication by
an agent.

Costs in private
prosecutions.

defendant in pleading to the indictment to allege the truth of the
matters charged in the manner required in pleading a justification
to an action for defamation, and further to allege that it was for
the public benefit that the matters charged should be published,
and the particular fact or facts by reason whereof it was for the
public benefit that the matters charged should be published, to
which plea the prosecutor shall be at liberty to reply generally
denying the whole thereof; but if after the plea the defendant is
convicted on the indictment, it shall be competent to the Court in
pronouncing sentence to consider whether the guilt of the
defendant is aggravated or mitigated by the plea, and by the
evidence given to prove or disprove it.
(2) The truth of the matters charged in the alleged libel
complained of by the indictment shall in no case be enquired into
without such plea or justification; and, in addition to such plea, it
shall be competent to the defendant to plead a plea of not guilty.
(3) Nothing contained in this Act shall take away or
prejudice any defence under the plea of not guilty which is
competent to the defendant to make under the plea to an action or
indictment for defamatory words or libel.

11. Whenever, upon the trial of any indictment for the
publication of a libel under the plea of not guilty, evidence is
given which establishes a presumptive case of publication against
the defendant by the act of any other person by his authority, it
shall be competent to the defendant to prove that the publication
was made without his authority, consent, or knowledge, and that
the publication did not arise from want of due care or caution on
his part.

12. In the case of an indictment by a private prosecutor for the
publication of any defamatory libel, if judgment is given for the
defendant, he is entitled to recover from the prosecutor the costs
sustained by the defendant by reason of the indictment; and upon a
special plea of justification to the indictment, if the issue is found for
the prosecutor, he is entitled to recover from the defendant the costs

6 Chap. 11:16 Libel and Defamation

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Libel and Defamation Chap. 11:16 7

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

L.R.O.

Newspaper
reports of
proceedings in
Court
privileged.

Restriction on
publication of
reports of
judicial
proceedings.

Penalties.
Who may be
convicted.

sustained by the prosecutor by reason of the plea, such costs to be
recovered by the defendant or prosecutor respectively to be taxed by
the proper officer of the Court before which the indictment is tried.
13. (1) A fair and accurate report in any newspaper of
proceedings publicly heard before any Court exercising judicial
authority shall, if published contemporaneously with the
proceedings, be privileged, but nothing in this section shall
authorise the publication of blasphemous or indecent matter.
(2) It is an offence to print or publish, or cause or
procure to be printed or published—
(a) in relation to any judicial proceedings, any

indecent matter or indecent medical, surgical or
physiological details being matter or details the
publication of which would be calculated to
injure public morals;

(b) in relation to any judicial proceedings for
dissolution of marriage, for nullity of marriage,
or for judicial separation, any particulars other
than the following, that is to say:

(i) the names, addresses and occupations of
the parties and witnesses;

(ii) a concise statement of the charges,
defences and countercharges in support of
which evidence has been given;

(iii) submissions on any point of law arising in
the course of the proceedings, and the
decision of the Court thereon;

(iv) the judgment of the Court and observations
made by the Judge in giving judgment.

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be held to permit the
publication of anything contrary to the provisions of
paragraph(a) of that subsection.
(4) Any proprietor, editor, master printer, or publisher
who acts in contravention of this section is, in respect of each
offence, liable on summary conviction to a fine of twenty
thousand dollars and to imprisonment for four months.

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Exceptions.

Newspaper
reports of
proceedings of
public meetings
and of certain
bodies and
persons
privileged.

(5) Nothing in this section shall apply to the printing of
any pleading, transcript of evidence or other document for use in
connection with any judicial proceedings or communication to
persons concerned in the proceedings, or to the printing or
publishing of any notice or report in pursuance of the directions of
the Court; or to the printing or publishing of any matter in any
separate volume or part of any bona fide series of law reports which
does not form part of any other publication and consists solely of
report of proceedings in Courts of law, or in any publication of a
technical character bona fide intended for circulation among
members of the legal or medical professions.

14. (1) A fair and accurate report published in any newspaper
of the proceedings of a public meeting, or (except where neither
the public nor any newspaper reporter is admitted) of any meeting
of a council, board, or local authority formed or constituted under
the provisions of any written law or of any committee appointed by
any of the above-mentioned bodies, and the publication at the
request of any Government office or department of any notice or
report issued by them for the information of the public shall be
privileged, unless it is proved that the report or publication was
published or made maliciously.
(2) The protection intended to be afforded by this
section shall not be available as a defence in any proceedings if
it is proved that the defendant has been requested to insert in the
newspaper in which the report or other publication complained of
appeared a reasonable letter or statement by way of contradiction
or explanation of such report or other publication, and has
refused or neglected to insert the same.
(3) Nothing in this section—
(a) shall authorise the publication of any

blasphemous or indecent matter; or
(b) shall be deemed or construed to limit or abridge

any privilege now by law existing, or to protect
the publication of any matter not of public
concern and the publication of which is not for
the public benefit.

8 Chap. 11:16 Libel and Defamation

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt

Libel and Defamation Chap. 11:16 9

LAWS OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

L.R.O.

Consolidation of
actions.

Power to
defendant to
give certain
evidence in
mitigation of
damages.

Sanction of
Director of
Public
Prosecutions
required for
prosecution.
[136/1976].

(4) For the purposes of this section “public meeting”
means any meeting bona fide and lawfully held for a lawful purpose,
and for the furtherance of discussion of any matter of public concern,
whether the admission thereto be general or restricted.
15. (1) It shall be competent for a Judge or the Court, upon an
application by or on behalf of two or more defendants in actions in
respect of the same, or substantially the same, libel brought by one
and the same person, to make an order for the consolidation of the
actions, so that they shall be tried together; and after the order has
been made, and before the trial of the actions, the defendants in any
new actions instituted in respect of the same, or substantially the
same, libel are also entitled to be joined in a common action upon
a joint application being made by the new defendants and the
defendants in the actions already consolidated.
(2) In a consolidated action under this section the Court shall
assess the whole amount of the damages (if any) in one sum, but a
separate verdict shall be taken for or against each defendant, in the
same way as if the actions consolidated had been tried separately; and
if the Court finds a verdict against the defendant or defendants in more
than one of the actions so consolidated, the Court shall proceed to
apportion the amount of damages so found between and against such
defendants; and the Judge at the trial, if he awards to the plaintiff the
costs of the action, shall also make such order as he considers just for
the apportionment of the costs between and against the defendants.
16. At the trial of an action for a libel contained in any
newspaper the defendant shall be at liberty to give in evidence in
mitigation of damages that the plaintiff has already recovered (or
has brought actions for) damages or has received or agreed to
receive compensation in respect of a libel or libels to the same
purport or effect as the libel for which the action has been brought.
17. No criminal prosecution shall be commenced against any
proprietor, publisher, printer, editor, or any person responsible for
the publication of a newspaper for any libel published therein
without the sanction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

UNOFFICIAL VERSION


UPDATED TO DECEMBER 31ST 2014

MINISTRY OF LEGAL AFFAIRS www.legalaffairs.gov.tt