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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70179
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Defamation/Harassment

Resolved Question:

Good evening, it is always hard to ask a legal question within a reasonably short question, but I will try. The question relates to statements made on an internet forum siye that is specific to our industry, as such the persons viewing it are directly our customers, past present and future. It started some 18 moths ago with a review being placed on the review site which is directly linked to the specific forum and our industry. The review was fake and derogatory directed directly to us, I wrote directly to the owner of the website requesting he remove it, I explained fully the circumstances and backed up this with evidence that it was fake. I knew who had made the false statements despite the fact he used a false name and address. The website owner did nothing about it and left the reviews on his site, it then obviously encouraged the individual as he wrote more and more under again false names. It came to a head last week when he posted yet more false reviews. I wrote again via email privately to the site owner requesting he take them down, this was done in a polite manner, he just ignored it again. I wrote again more strongly and pointed out as the owner of the website he was culpable for the content, as such again I demanded he remove them and sent yet more evidence that they were all false. The response this time was blatant and rude that I should not threaten him as he does not take kindly to being threatened with Court action. He then went place a notice at the top of the section containing these reviews (some of which were exceptionally positive) that stated in large bold red lettering the following wording "Negative reviews for (company name) should not be left or this will result in Court action against the person" I again requested he remove this but noticed what he had done was remove the positive reviews and left the others. Without becoming even more boring, I wrote to him again and stated that if he was unable to be professional, he should remove any reference to the company at all, he did not. He then started what is termed as a thread (basically a question on the forum to all members) to the effect of informing them that the company (company name) had threatened him with Court action if he did not remove the negative reviews, and questioned if this was right of the forum members. This was done to incite hatred and boycotting of our company. Many people then all commented that this was despicable (some 2700+ people viewed this posting and commented) and would never use our company. I have so far instructed a solicitor to write to him and tell him that I require a public apology on his website of at least equal significance, I have invested £1,000 so far but it was mentioned today that of course whilst I may well be entitled to compensation, does he really have any money and when we continue with this action (I have VERY strong morals of what is wrong and right) will we ever get anything back and would we be better off following a action in a County Court for harassment which is much cheaper and we could ask for compensation here anyway. If you have not lost the will to live after reading this far, may I have your considered opinion please on the County Court route and what we would need to do and could it all be accomplished fairly promptly and via the on line CC system.  I should add that I have copies of the complete pages of the postings and emails to the website owner.

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What would you like to know about this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

As pointed out by the solicitor who is carrying out the initial approach to this individual, the one point to bear in mind is a quick reaction, and high Court action is never quick, in addition any compensation is dependant upon the individuals ability to pay it, as such I am wondering if I can take swifter action to force him to issue a public retraction and publication of his errors by using the County Court system, perhaps under the harassment law. What please would be your considered opinion on this route and is it possible to do this using the on line CC issuing procedure and how should I word it please after reading what the events were? Thank you

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
How many reviews have there been please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Originally there were 4 positive reviews, then the 3 false negative reviews.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
There are 2 culpable parties here. The person placing the reviews who presumably you know, if you do not know them then you obviously cannot take legal proceedings against them, and the site owner.
Clearly, both parties think that they are above the law and if the comments are untrue and defamatory and you can seek an injunction to have them removed and compensation and ask the court to award costs against any party found guilty of defamation.
There is absolutely no point in your solicitor racking up extensive costs. Send a couple of letters to each party and if they not do the trick, then issue court proceedings.
If this goes to court it could cost you several thousand pounds, particularly if defended, although I cannot see that either party has a defence if what they are saying is or untrue. If the parties have no money to pay the costs you can ultimately make them bankrupt which may not give you any money but if they have a house with equity, all the creditors would be paid from that, and you would get your share in proportion.
If you are a private individual and not a limited company there is also the matter of harassment which is an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act. Your remedy is an injunction in exactly the same way as defamation and you could bring an action in defamation and harassment.
Harassment is also a police matter but some police matters take harassment more seriously than others but that would be for you to take up with the police, making a complaint if necessary. There is certainly sufficient conduct, from what you have told me, for the police to issue a harassment warning that if this does not cease and desist, the parties will be prosecuted.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Good morning, Firstly we are a limited company. Next can we join the two matters together of the person (yes we do know who they are despite the fact they are using a number of false names) who posted the fake reviews and the owner of the website who published them and raised the matter on the general forum, and then pursue them both for harassment and an injunction in respect of the person who entered the fake reviews and the publisher of them, or is it safer to not link them in case one fails and then brings the other down with it. Due to the fact that I am not sure how much money the parties have, it may be I would be spending very considerable sums of money in order to get justice but no compensation or my costs back, hence the reason for thinking of going along the County Court route.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.

You can seek an injunction against the maker of the statement and its publisher. You would join them in as 1st and 2nd defendants on the basis that the facts surrounding the circumstances are exactly the same in both cases.

It doesn't matter which route you go along, if the parties have no money to pay your costs or compensation then all you will get is the injunction but obviously at considerable financial cost to you.

Your solicitor's bill is yours to pay even though you may get an order to recover it from the other side, it is still your liability





Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK thank you. I should say that the Police consider it a civil matter. Can I make the owner of the website mindful that he posted the item on his own website for everyone to read and comment on but leaving out the true facts of the matter, as he made it public can I ask the Court to order him to publish with equal prominence a retraction notice for a period of time, is it also possible to seek compensation and my costs, I cannot PROVE an actual financial loss in terms of the people he has convinced not to use us, but many people have stated in writing that they would not use us based on what he has printed on the forum. What would I issue a County Court claim under, is it harassment and what else please?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Yes, I had thought they would.
A court can make him make amends and play your costs.
You could sue for harassment but you could also raise deformation
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. I understood you could not claim defamation in a County Court only the High Court, so would I claim in the County Court Harassment and defamation perhaps?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Sorry, that should have read defamation above.
You can only claim defamation in the high court. But its a claim you do have.
If you want to use the county court thne it will have to be in harassment.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK thank you. In order to close this for you, please tell me if I have understood this correctly: (1) I can make the claim for harassment through the County Court, (2) I can link the two individuals together in the same claim (3) I can ask the County Court to issue an injunction against both parties to stop a further recurrence (4) I can seek some form of compensation that the Judge feels appropriate in the case without defining it (5) I can ask the Court to make an order against the owner of the website to force him to issue a retraction with at least the same prominence in respect of the comments he has made and the postings, and that this should remain in place for a period of (to be determined) time.

This was my final point in order to clarify matters and we can close the session, had you missed it?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

OK thank you. In order to close this for you, please tell me if I have understood this correctly: (1) I can make the claim for harassment through the County Court, (2) I can link the two individuals together in the same claim (3) I can ask the County Court to issue an injunction against both parties to stop a further recurrence (4) I can seek some form of compensation that the Judge feels appropriate in the case without defining it (5) I can ask the Court to make an order against the owner of the website to force him to issue a retraction with at least the same prominence in respect of the comments he has made and the postings, and that this should remain in place for a period of (to be determined) time.

This was my final point in order to clarify matters and we can close the session, had you missed it?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Sorry, I did miss this.
Yes, that is right.
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