Ex-employee ordered to pay former colleagues £150,000 in libel and harassment damages
Damages totalling £150,000 have been awarded to five claimants who brought harassment and libel claims against a former colleague in Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust & Ors v S (2014).
The Defendant was employed as a trainee cardiac physiologist by the First Claimant. During the course of the Defendant’s employment, he faced disciplinary action and was eventually dismissed in 2009 for gross misconduct. The Defendant then began harassing the First Claimant and all those that has been involved in his disciplinary proceedings and continued to do so until earlier this year. The campaign of harassment consisted of over 120 separate events and included incidents such as making silent phone calls, making false appointments with the claimants and submitting false job applications. The Defendant also contacted the claimants’ family members. The libel claim was brought in respect of defamatory allegations that were submitted on blogs and social networking websites that the claimants were involved in bribery, paedophilia and sexual relations with patients.
The Defendant did not file and serve a defence to the claims and judgment was entered against him. In assessing damages in relation to harassment Judge Maloney QC considered that the harassment fell in the upper band for injury to feelings because of the length of the harassment and the severity of the Defendant’s actions, which had undoubtedly caused the claimants a considerable amount of anxiety. This was particularly so for one claimant who had been on medication for stress during this period. The individual claimants were awarded sums in the region of £20,000 to £25,000 each.
In assessing the damages that were payable for injury to reputation in the libel claim (in addition to the harassment awards for injury to feelings), the judge ordered that there should be awards that vindicated the claimants and served as a public demonstration that the allegations were untrue. An additional sum of £20,000 was awarded to a Claimant who had set up his own business and to a Claimant accused of being a paedophile. Additional damages in the sum of £10,000 were awarded to the other claimants.
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