Full case report
Bloom v Robinson-Millar
Court Queen's Bench Division
Judge Sharp J
Date of Judgment 7 Oct 2009
Defamation – Libel – Harassment – Trial of action – Neighbour dispute – Publication of letters over a long period – Whether course of conduct was harassment of claimant – Damages
C, a chartered accountant, complained of seven libels and a course of conduct in harassment by D, a neighbour. The allegations were of serious criminal conduct, including fraud, perjury and criminal damage, alleged against C in his role as a director of the management company of the block of flats where the parties live. Despite he and others having told D that the allegations were untrue, she persisted with them for many years. In June 2009 Master Foster struck out her affirmative defences and the trial took place before Sharp J sitting alone to address whether the words were libellous and whether the conduct was harassing.
(1) Whether the libels were defamatory of C and published to third parties;
(2) Whether the D had engaged in a course of conduct constituting harassment;
(3) If so, what amount of damages should be awarded to C.
(1) The letters made very seriously defamatory allegations against C alleging criminality in various ways and were published to a number of third parties;
(2) There was overwhelming evidence that D had engaged in a course of conduct which amounted to harassment of C and it was legitimate for a person in the position of C to obtain the protection of the law from such obsessive, offensive and unacceptable behaviour targeted at him. D’s conduct was obsessive and irrational. Even if D did not know her conduct was harassing of C a reasonable person in her position would have done so;
(3) The allegations were extremely serious and it was clear that C had been extremely upset over a considerable period. Having regard to the nature and volume of the allegations made the Court found that that was not surprising. He was entitled to damages in the sum of £30,000 as a global figure.
The Judge stated that the award of damages would have been higher had it not been for the fact that there was a significant element of vindication for C from her reasoned judgment since it went through the course of conduct relied upon and explained that the allegations levelled at C were untrue.
Summers for the Claimant; the Defendant in person
More from 5RB
5RB is the pre-eminent set in the area for handling defamation, privacy, contempt and data protection matters. Interviewees praise the set for having great depth and quality of counsel, and note that it boasts many of the top barristers in the field. Get the lowdown here.
New 3rd Edition of The Law of Privacy and the Media, published by OUP. Further details here.