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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My wife's number plate has been posted online (Facebook) together

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My wife's number plate has been posted online (Facebook) together with a statement that she bumped into a car in a car park but didn't report the bump, the person that posted was not the owner of the car. Some days later the owner of the car saw the post, recognised the car as theirs and confirmed some scratches on the bumper that they assumed must have been from the bump. The car owner contacted the Police. Police came to see me yesterday informed me of the alleged incident and asked that I discuss with my wife (who is out of the country on holiday). I've discussed with my wife and she remembers the day well but denies categorically that she bumped into another car. This morning the car owner phoned me on my home number and addressed me by my first name to discuss. The car owner is frustrated because they don't know what happened to their car and is relying on the Facebook post for clues on the cause of the damage. My wife continue to deny any wrongdoing stating she did not bump into any car in the car park in question. There is no CCTV and only one witness (the Facebook poster) to the alleged incident. I feel considerable empathy for the owners of the car but can't accept responsibility for an incident that did not involve my wife's vehicle. What recourse do we have against the Facebook poster. As far as I know publishing a photo of my wife's number plate in the public domain is not illegal but is additionally making remarks that my wife considers to be untrue not considered defamation? Question 1 : Can we take any civil action against the Facebok poster? I then have a concern about the car owners telephone call this morning. I am not known to the car owner yet she called me this morning and addressed me by my first name. The information could only have come from the Police officer who took my contact details yesterday. I did not (could not) admit to the incident so should the Police officer have given my details to the vehicle owner. The agreement yesterday was that I would speak to my wife to hear her side of the story and if she remembered anything she would contact the car owner. She has tried twice since yesterday to call the owner but with no success. Question 2: Can I challenge the police officer for passing on my details ? I have tried to contact him twice through the incident number, he did not leave his contact details. Long story! Hope you can point me in the right direction for both questions. Appreciate your help. Alan
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. I will deal with each part of your query separately.
Firstly, what action you could take against the Facebook poster. Whilst this may appear to be a potential case of defamation (this includes libel if it is in written form, or slander if it is in oral form), such claims are extremely difficult to pursue. Many people are intent on suing for defamation without having any appreciation of the law behind them, so I will try and clear things up for you now.
First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:
1. The statement has to be untrue.
2. It must directly identify the complainant.
3. It must have been published, usually communicated to at least another person.
4. It must be in a form of words, which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of ‘right thinking members of society generally', expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.
Whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has occurred, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is extremely complex and expensive. As this goes through the High Court, you would need the professional help of specialist defamation solicitors and the costs are undoubtedly going to run into the thousands right at the outset. Also there is no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally. So when you hear about defamation claims being made, these are usually pursued by big corporations or celebrities who have a public image to protect.
You must also consider whether the party alleged of making the defamatory statement can defend the claim. Even if you satisfy the criteria to prove the statement was defamatory it could be defended on a number of grounds, including by providing evidence that the statement was substantially true. Here it is just their word against your wife’s. Playing devil’s advocate, your wife could be wrong. She may not have thought a collision occurred, but that is her perception. She could have scratched the car still and just not have realised it at the time – it is possible. You also have to think why would this person lie – is it in their interest to do so? They may have genuinely witnessed this incident and provided their honest opinion of what happened. The issue is without any other witnesses it could be difficult to pursue such a claim.
There is of course nothing stopping you from contacting the other party and threatening them that what they have done amounts to defamation and that you will consider pursuing the matter further if they do not retract their statement. This could prompt them to reconsider their position, but I would not recommend that you actually proceed with a claim for defamation due to the issues highlighted above.
Secondly, action against the police. What they have done is actually not unlawful. They had a report of an incident of failing to stop at the site of an accident and they have investigated it. They have likely done a report and that had the details of the registered keeper on there. Disclosing this is not unlawful. So legally you cannot do anything to take action against them but you could state that they could have handled this better and contacted you first before doing so.
I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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My full response should be visible on this page. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question or whether you need me to clarify anything else in relation to this? If your query has been answered I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating, selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page. Thank you