Tutors awarded £30,000 in libel damages after Facebook slur
In Antony & anr v Sivakumar, Richard Spearman QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, delivered an ex tempore judgment in which he ordered the defendant to pay both claimants £15,000 in damages.
The Defendant had published a pseudonymous Facebook ‘review’ on the Claimants’ business page which made a false allegation of paedophilia. The Claimants sought Norwhich Pharmacal relief against Facebook and subsequently against three telecoms providers in order to seek to establish the individual responsible for the comment, before commencing proceedings against the Defendant
The Defendant denied responsibility for the publication but otherwise chose to have little involvement in the proceedings. Default judgment was entered against him, but the Claimants subsequently agreed to this being set aside after the Defendant purported to have filed (although not served) a Defence with the Court within the required period. The Defence contained a bare denial of publication, which prompted the Claimants to seek summary judgment.
At a virtual hearing on 27 November 2020, the Judge was satisfied that the Defence had no real prospect of succeeding, and that there was no other compelling reason to require the matter to go to trial. He was satisfied that sum of £15,000 each (at which the claim was capped) was justified given the seriousness of the allegations.
The Defendant did not attend the hearing, having stated that he was self-isolating and suffering from symptoms associated with COVID-19. The Court was not prepared to adjourn the matter in the absence of any medical evidence, and given both the Defendant’s previously limited engagement in the proceedings and the Claimants’ strong case.
The Court additionally granted an injunction preventing any similar publication in the future, and awarded the Claimant’s costs in full, summarily assessed in the sum of £49,297.65.
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