Dr Andrew Guise awarded £28k in libel & harassment damages
Business consultant Dr Andrew Guise has won his claims for libel, harassment and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 over a website created about him by entrepreneur Rajeev Shah.
Dr Guise had provided services to Mr Shah and his company Dental CPD Servies Ltd (trading as ‘Dental CPD Pro’), which provides software dental CPD. The pair had fallen out over Dr Guise’s remuneration, leading to Mr Shah creating a defamatory website about him at andrewguise.com (and other URLs incorporating his name). Mr Shah then emailed Dr Guise’s wife demanding her husband respect confidentiality which he had recently threatened to breach, failing which the website would remain active and would rise to the top of search results for Dr Guise’s name (although it was temporarily removed for several weeks initially in an attempt at a truce).
The next day Dr Guise created a website in response which made a series of allegations about Mr Shah. This website, which was amended after about a year, was the subject of counterclaims by Mr Shah.
Dr Guise and his wife were then visited at their house by an unknown gentleman making reference to Mr Shah, who made no explicit threats but who left Dr Guise’s wife feeling frightened. Mr Shah denied responsibility for this visit.
In a judgment handed down today Dingemans J ruled that the andrewguise.com website was defamatory of Dr Guise, including that it had caused serious harm to his reputation, and that defences of truth and honest opinion succeeded only in part. The most serious of several allegations on the website, that Dr Guise had perpetrated a ‘scam’ on Mr Shah, was not defended as true (a late attempt to amend being rejected). The Judge ruled Dr Guise was entitled to £25k in libel damages.
The Judge held that the websites about Dr Guise and Mr Shah were both partially inaccurate, and so breached the DPA. To that extent the claim and counterclaim under the DPA both succeeded. However, no distress had been caused – beyond that for which Dr Guise had already been compensated in libel – so no damages were awarded.
Mr Shah’s conduct in publishing and maintaining the website, and sending a man to visit Dr Guise and his wife at their home (which he was found to have arranged), was a course of conduct constituting harassment, and Dr Guise was awarded a further £3k in damages in respect of that. Mr Shah’s counterclaim for harassment was dismissed.
The Judgement was also critical of the resort to the self-help measure of publishing retaliatory websites in a business dispute.