Selvaratnam Suresh, an honorary chairman, trustee and co-founder of the Oriental Fine Arts Academy of London (‘OFAAL’) has succeeded in his libel claim against Abdul Samad, Amirthalingam Nagarajah and Kajananan Sathananthan, after the defendants agreed to retract their allegations, apologise and pay compensation and costs. The first two defendants are parents of pupils at the West London Tamil School. The third defendant is a former pupil and the president of the school’s alumni association.
“#MeToo”: Five letters that have been tweeted millions of times in the past month, and demonstrate the enormous power of social media and how it can bring about change for the good. The feeling of solidarity is a cathartic experience for many who have been the victim of sexual abuse, harassment or other forms of coercive behaviour. Beyond this, the reach of the hashtag is already challenging outdated social values and societal norms.
In 2016, 82% of adults in the UK used the internet on a daily basis compared with just 35% in 2006. Smartphones and mobile devices are the most popular tools for adults to access the internet with 71% accessing through smartphones. Using the internet for social networking on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram has continued to grow rapidly over the last decade with 63% of adults using some form of social media every single day in 2016. In November 2016, Samsung produced a study which found that the average person will spend three years of their lives updating their social media accounts and Facebook’s latest statistics confirmed that they have 1.28 billion daily users.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, and Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper have both called for a review of the law governing online harassment, stalking and abuse to prevent inconsistent enforcement and to encourage those affected to report the crime.
The case of Stocker v Stocker, the first libel trial of 2016, provides a stark warning to those who post defamatory material on social media. In this case the Court held that the claimant had been defamed by his ex-wife and he was awarded £5,000 of damages.
The Attorney-General has appeared in person before the High Court to ask that two men be committed to jail for “acts likely to interfere with the administration of justice”. In both instances the acts arise from the use of the internet whilst jurors in criminal trial. In an indication of how seriously the courts are treating the issue of internet use and contempt, the cases are being heard by sir John Thomas (President of the Queen’s Bench Division and the future Lord Chief Justice) and Mr Justice sweeney.