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Jenny, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor specialising in Employment Law and general legal matters. Please start your question For Jenny Only
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Defamation of professional character via emails to third parties

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Defamation of professional character via emails to third parties including an MP.
I work in FE and my professional reputation is based on my knowledge in the SEN field. A parent been a serial complainer concerning her child's support. The child in question is exceeding expectations at college with the support provided. However, this does not appear to meet mum's standards. As the head for SEN mum has targeted me specifically in a number of emails which accuse me of incompetence, deletion of a legal document (education health care plan - which I cannot do as it belongs to the local authority and parent/child) and of failing to provide support necessary for her child. The emails and vitriol have been for a year and a half and recently the assistant principal and principal have become involved in the case. However, my concerns are that my professional reputation outside of the college has the potential to be tarnished as mum's personalises the emails, names me in the emails, makes false statements and sends to several parties including the staff I line manage, the local authority and the local MP. I would like advice on taking action for libel
Hello my name is***** am a solicitor and I am happy to help you today. Have you or are you likely to suffer a financial loss as a result of this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Not at this stage; however my professional reputation extends outside of the college and I provide professional assessments so I am concerned that this could impact on this side of things if it continues. However, at this moment in time I am concerned about the sustained level of defamatory emails which are being sent to several parties
Has your employer offered any support with regards ***** ***** these statements and assuring people of your professionalism?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Not at this stage. Instead meetings have been held with mum which I have been a part of to discuss what is needed for her child's EHCP. I have said that the emails from mum are inappropriate, therefore the assistant principal stepped in to be the person between me and mum to de-escalate the situation. However, at no point has mum's approach in emails been addressed and instead there has been meetings to appease mum. Given the character of the parent it does not take long before things escalate again - there are concerns that she does not want her daughter to achieve and I have also raised safeguarding concerns about this child to relevant parties in the college (mum is unaware of this at the moment). I have addressed mum's approach in one email and said that her emails were becoming increasingly aggressive and inappropriate and therefore I felt it was best that we communicated through the LA. At this point mum escalated further in the emails and the assistant principal became involved. Unfortunately, even with his involvement, mum has still continued and this week she became annoyed about a trivial matter which is quite typical, and requested a meeting with Prinicpal. In this meeting she spoke about the fact that she questioned my competence - the principal informs me that she has expressed to mum that she has every faith in my expertise and professionalism, but mum raised again about me deleting parts of the EHCP, which as I have said I cannot do, and she went on to say that I have not actioned items in the plan, which I have
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
After the meeting when I spoke to the principal (yesterday) I said that mum's emails were inappropriate and aggressive and I was concerned that they are targeted at me and being sent to a wide variety of people. The principal asked if I had addressed it with mum. I said that I had in a previous email which then resulted in the assistant's involvement. The principal said that she had not addressed mum's approach with staff in the meeting she had but that she would need to if it continued; but this has been going on for a while now
Ok there are a couple of issues here which need to be addressed. First, unless you suffer financial loss as a result of the statements there is no merit in brining a claim, it costs tens of thousands of pounds for you to pursue such a claim and you can only claim for actual loss and future loss if it is likely to happen as a result. The second point is that it may do your professional reputation more harm to attempt to claim in these circumstances than if you do not. Whilst this woman is clearly a pain in the 'proverbial' and is not going to be easy to satisfy your employer and the LEA may not want you to threaten her with action in this way. I would discuss your concerns with your employer and ask them to protect you. They owe you a duty of trust and confidence and if they do not support you they are in breach of that duty. It may also able be seen as denying her right to complain which would not be acceptable when someone is delivering a service such as the one you deliver. The third significant point is that statements such as this made regarding an employment may not meet the legal definition in any event as statements to your employer would not be considered to be publically made, possibly statements to MPs might be but this would be a hurdle for you to climb. I do not mean to be unduly negative I just think you need to consider all of the above. It is my view that in your position you are best off asking your employer for support and raising a grievance if they do not provide it. Is there anything further you would like to know? If I have answered your question I would be grateful if you would take the time to rate my answer. Thank you and all the best.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks. I think I am coming more from the stance that it has not continued for a unacceptable length of time with me at the centre and for me it needs to stop now. The statements being made are to wider than my employer, but I will speak to my employer. I would want the email approach to be addressed directly with mum and I would assume that I can reasonably request this of my employer?
Yes you can certainly ask your employer to address this. I would suggest you tell your employer this is all stressing you out and is affecting your health and safety. As the employer has a positive duty to protect your health and safety they should then take positive steps to stop the problem now. I hope that helps. If you have any further questions please do ask. If I have answered your question I would be grateful if you would take the time to rate my answer as I am not otherwise credited for my time. Thank you and all the best.
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