These words are often confused, but do not have the same meaning. Let me give you a short explanation, based on the Dutch Criminal Code.
Making an insult is a criminal offense. It may be a public insult: verbal, in a letter or picture. It can also be an insult to a person in front of him: orally or by an action (for example, by spitting the person in the face). Finally, an insult can be made of sending or handing an insult in writing or in an image. Insult is punishable under art. 266 of the Criminal Code. In addition to the insulting nature of the statement, image or behavior, the suspect’s intention to insult must also be proven.
Defamation involves statements that consciously attempt to tarnish a person’s reputation by accusing the person of certain behaviors. Is has been criminalized in art. 261 of the Dutch Criminal Code. That accusation does not have to be criminal offenses. For example, defamation may be an accusation of cheating. Defamation does not have to happen in public, but the perpetrator must have the goal of getting the attention of others for the accusations. It can therefore also be a single e-mail to family or friends. Defamation is not punishable if the perpetrator acted out of necessary defense or could have assumed in good faith that the accusation was true and that the public interest required disclosure.
In case of slander, the charge is made in public, while it is known that the charge is false (art. 262 of the Dutch Criminal Code). So the difference is that defamation and slander are aimed at third parties and blaming someone at those third parties. In the case of slander, this also happens while the perpetrator knows that the accusation is not correct.
When a criminal case follows the declaration, compensation can be requested in that criminal case. If the case is simple, the criminal judge can make a decision about it. A conditional sentence, with a probationary period, can also be imposed to prevent a recurrence.
Besides being a criminal offence, this kind of behaviour can also be a ulawful act (art. 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code). This means you can also choose for a civil court procedure to stop the accusations or to get compensation.
Usually it is preferable to take control yourself and to ask through a civil procedure to:
– a publication ban and / or an obligation to make a correction
– the obligation to retrieve a posted message or line with a penalty
– a ban on re-making allegations with a periodic penalty payment compensation.
Please contact one of our lawyers, if you need advice on this subject.