Last updated 1 September 2016

Defamation proceedings can either be heard in the District or Supreme Court. If the damages being claimed are less than $750 000 then the proceedings should be commenced in the District Court (s 68 District Court of Queensland Act 1967 (Qld)). Proceedings are commenced with a claim and a statement of claim. If you receive a claim and a statement of claim you need to seek legal advice. A defence to the claim must be filed and served within 28 days of the claim and statement of claim being served upon you.

The role of jury and judicial officers

Either party in defamation proceedings in the Supreme Court or District Court may elect to have the proceedings determined by a jury, unless the court orders otherwise. This may occur if the trial requires prolonged examination of records or involves technical, scientific or other issues that cannot be conveniently considered and resolved by a jury (s 21 Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) (Defamation Act)).

Where an election has been made to have the matter determined by a jury, the party who made that election can unilaterally abandon that election by advising the other party of this decision (see Kecian v Watney [2015] QCA 212).

If the case involves a jury, the role of the jury is limited to determining whether the aggrieved person has been defamed (s 22 Defamation Act). This decision will be made having regard to whether defamatory matter about the aggrieved person was published and whether any defence has been established by the publisher. Under the Defamation Act, the determination of the amount of damages to be awarded is the responsibility of the judge and not the jury.

The jury is not permitted to determine other issues that are to be determined by the judge which includes, for example, whether the defamatory matter was published on an occasion of absolute or qualified privilege for the purposes of a defence.

It is a question for the jury whether the truth of an imputation is substantially made out.