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16.09.15

Brett Wilson LLP awarded damages and injunction for defamatory posting

Brett Wilson LLP has been granted an injunction prohibiting the publication of a false and defamatory posting at a successor website to the controversial Solicitors from Hell website.

The law firm acted for the Law Society in the landmark class action which saw the original website closed down by the High Court in 2011 (The Law Society & Ors v Kordowski [2011] EWHC 3185).  The original website operated a system whereby members of the public could pay to 'name and shame' lawyers who they claimed had let them down.  The website attracted considerable criticism, not least for its lack of verification of postings and its system of seeking payment from lawyers in return for the removal of defamatory postings.

The current Solicitors from Hell website is run anonymously and thus in Brett Wilson LLP v Person(s) Unknown [2015] EWHC 2628 (QB) libel proceedings were brought against 'Persons Unknown responsible for the operation and the publication of the website'.  The Defendants were served with proceedings by email, but failed to defend the claim or attend the hearing.

In entering judgment Warby J agreed that the defendants were 'hiding'.  He awarded damages capped in the sum of £10,000 (the maximum possible under the summary relief procedure invoked under section 9 of the Defamation Act 1996) and costs in the sum of £15,000.   The injunction requires the publisher/operator of the website to remove the defamatory posting and references to the Claimant from its website.  It prohibits republication of similar defamatory postings.

The claim is understood to be first corporate claim since the inception of the Defamation Act 2013 (which requires corporate claimants to establish serious financial loss or the likelihood of serious financial loss) to be considered by the Court and the first defamation judgment in England/Wales against 'persons unknown'.

Commenting on the decision Brett Wilson LLP partner Nick Brett said:-

"As a firm specialising in online defamation, we understand how damaging false and defamatory postings on the internet can be.  The fact that a defendant is not identifiable should not be a bar to an aggrieved party seeking redress, particularly where one can look to third parties (such as Google in this case) for assistance and obtain a vindicatory award that they can point to.  Whilst at the present time there is insufficient evidence to identify the operator of this website, efforts to do so are ongoing and the firm intends to take steps to enforce the order in the event of non-compliance."

To find out how we can assist you if you have been a victim of online defamation or harassment click here.


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