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7.09.21

Section 13 of the Defamation Act 2013 – Removal orders against non-parties

Section 13(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 allows a Court to order that a non-party to cease communicating a defendant's defamatory statement.  Such an order can be made against a website operator, requiring them to remove the statement (section 13(a)), or any person who was not the author, editor or publisher of the defamatory who is distributing, selling or exhibiting material containing the statement (section 13(b)).  Such orders are made after a claimant has obtained judgment.

The provision came into force in 2014 and, as far as we are aware, has been deployed twice in reported cases.

Summerfield Browne Limited v Phillip James Waymouth [2021] EWHC 85 (QB)

This case, which can be read in full here, was the first case in which an order under section 13 was made.  The Defendant had made a statement accusing the Claimant of being ‘a scam solicitor’ in a review on the Trustpilot website.  The Claimant succeeded, and then sought an order under section 13 that Trustpilot remove the review containing the statement.

Master Cook commented at paragraph 39 of his judgment that had Trustpilot been named as a defendant in the proceedings, it would have had recourse to a defence under section 5(2) of the Defamation Act 2013 – namely that it was not itself the party that posted the defamatory statement.  Master Cook went on to state that he made the section 13 Order on the basis that Mr Waymouth’s conduct made it doubtful he would comply with the injunctive relief, which ordered him to remove it.

Blackledge v Person(s) Unknown [2021] EWHC 1994 (QB)

The claimant (represented by this firm) sued the author(s) of a blog hosted on Google's Blogspot platform.  The author(s) remained anonymous and unresponsive - when publishing the blog, when contacted pre-action, and throughout proceedings. As a result of their anonymity, an order was sought and obtained granting the claimant permission to sue "person(s) unknown".  In such cases, there is a risk an anonymous defendant will ignore any injunction requiring them to remove content.  Accordingly, an order was sought and obtained under section 13(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 requiring Google to remove the defamatory statements from the Blogspot platform.  The full judgment can be found here.

Conclusion

Section 13 is a necessary provision given the 'immunity defences' for platform providers/intermediaries introduced by section 5 and 10 of the Defamation Act 2013.  Without it a claimant might not be able to achieve an effective remedy in circumstances where the defendant was not engaging with proceedings or was unable to remove content from a third party website themselves.  Claimants suing such defendants are well-advised to ensure such an order is sought (in addition to an order requiring the defendant to remove content or to use their best endeavours).

 

Click here to find out how Brett Wilson LLP's specialist defamation solicitors can assist if you have been libelled/slandered or accused of libel/slander.


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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.


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