Category Archives: Defamation

Supporter pays for false allegations on football website

The High Court has awarded £30,000 to the chairman of Blackpool Football Club after a supporter of the club posted false allegations on a supporters’ website. An order was also made prohibiting the supporter from repeating the same or similar libels.

In 2015, the supporter posted material alleging that the chairman had entered into a foul-mouthed rant at him in public, had brandished a shotgun in such a manner as to make the supporter believe that he was about to be shot, and had put him in fear of his safety or even his life.

On the day of the court hearing the supporter accepted that the chairman had not, in fact, done what the supported had claimed and unreservedly apologised for an email sent to the chairman’s wife. The court thought it was clear that the email had been intended for the claimant’s wife to receive and read and this was taken into account along with the admission in deciding the amount of the damages.

Facebook UK and Google UK not responsible for alleged defamation

The High Court, in two similar defamation actions by the same claimant against Facebook UK (FBUK) and Google UK (GUK) respectively, has upheld previous decisions to strike out the claims and grant summary judgment to the defendants.

The Claimant sought damages for libel and for breach of her right to privacy, under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in respect of the publication of a Facebook profile and a posting on the Google Blogger service about her, both of which she alleged had been created by an impostor and were defamatory.

FBUK argued that it did not control user content on Facebook social media, saying that control rested with Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland Ltd. GUK similarly argued that the Blogger site was under the control of Google Inc.

The High Court agreed that the defendants were not responsible for the publications and that the claimant had taken action against the wrong parties.

Treasurer’s statement about “dodgy receipts” was defamatory

The High Court has found that a statement by the treasurer of an unincorporated association about the former president of the association, was defamatory.

The former president, while he was president, had been given £2500 to donate to a medical mission in Nigeria. He paid it via his UK and Nigerian bank accounts. The treasurer was concerned about deficiencies in the receipts and sent a statement to 15 association members and elders which said that the president had provided “dodgy receipts” and stated that “the receipts were forged”.

The treasurer failed to prove that the receipts were forgeries. He had reasonable grounds for believing that the documents were forgeries, and had been honest in that belief, but for the defence of honest opinion he had to establish that the words complained of had been a statement of opinion, rather than fact.

He was unable to do this and the court awarded damages of £2,000.

Referral to social services not defamatory

The High Court has rejected a claim in defamation by a mother after hospital staff treating her four-year old daughter referred the daughter to social services following confrontational and erratic behaviour by the mother.

The judge considered that the hospital staff were genuinely concerned about the mother’s behaviour and its implications for her daughter’s welfare even though it was recognised upon closer investigation that the mother had a good relationship with her daughter.

There was a duty on a nurse or clinician to communicate such concerns to the appropriate people and there was a recognised channel at the hospital to deal with such situations.

In so far as such communication referred to an adult in a way which might be damaging to their reputation, it was likely to pass the test of being necessary and proportionate.

As the court had found that the allegations made against the claimant were substantially true, there was no reason to suppose that, when recording their impressions, the various staff members were not being honest and that malice was an issue.

£50,000 Damages for Google Maps defamation

The High Court has awarded £50,000 damages to a US law firm and its principal, finding that a false posting on the firm’s Google Maps profile was defamatory.

Jason Page, the defendant, admitted that the posting of the negative review of the firm had come from his Google account, but denied that he was responsible for it.

After considering various hypothetical explanations from Mr Page, the court concluded that the most likely explanation, on a balance of probabilities, was that the posting from Mr Page’s account was authored or authorised by him. It was extremely improbable that anyone had successfully hacked into that account; there was no evidence that anyone did so and no reason why anyone with a grudge against the claimants should attempt to go down that route. The court commented that it was unclear why Mr Page wished to attack the law firm or its principal but said it was not necessary to reach a conclusion on the motive.

The court awarded the US lawyer £45,000 damages, taking into account in particular the impact upon him personally. It would have awarded a further £25,000 to the firm, but due to a voluntary cap on damages of £50,000, this was the total sum to be recovered.