Reference:  EWHC 2436 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Tugendhat J
Date of judgment: 5 Oct 2010
Summary: Libel - Interim injunction - Freedom of expression - s.12 Human Rights Act 1998 - Article 10, ECHR - 'Solicitors from Hell' website
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Instructing Solicitors: McCormacks Law Ltd for A; R did not appear and was not represented.
A solicitor (A), applied for an interim injunction restraining publication of words on a website run by the respondent (R) called “solicitorsfromhell.co.uk”. The words included allegations that A was “downright crooked” and other words reflecting adversely on her competence and conduct of proceedings in which it was said she acted for the author of the words complained of. The author was not identified and little other details were provided about the proceedings in which it was alleged that A acted. R gave no indication of any defence and although the words were removed from the website following issue of proceedings, A did not know if the removal was temporary or permanent and had received no assurance to that effect. A stated the words were completely untrue and had never acted for any client in the circumstances identified, so far as they were identified.
Whether an interim injunction should be granted.
Granting the injunction:
The court would grant interim injunctions in defamation actions in accordance with s.12 Human Rights Act in appropriate cases. Here there was a prima facie case of libel – there remained a threat by R to publish or further publish the words complained of and A was likely to suffer injury which could not be adequately compensated in damages. The words were plainly defamatory and R had not raised any defence. In the circumstances, A was likely to establish that the publication complained of should not be allowed.
This is a rare example of the granting of an interim injunction in a defamation action, and illustrates the hoops a claimant will need to jump through in order to succeed in such an application. The case was particularly unusual for the defendant not raising any substantive defence at all to the complaint.