Qualified privilege is a defence which operates to exempt the maker of a statement from liability for a defamation claim. Its operation facilitates free communication in certain relationship scenarios where the maker of a statement has a legal, social, or moral duty to speak freely, and the listener has an interest in receiving the information. For example, references for job applicants, answers to police inquiries, and discussions between teachers and parents, and employers and employees are protected by qualified privilege. The test for its application is more than a mere relationship however – the statement needing protection must relate to the business at hand.
Qualified privilege is available whether or not the statement made was true, as long as the maker believes its truth and the relevant relationship exists.
The defence of qualified privilege cannot be used if it is proved that the statement was motivated by malice.