Libel action which followed criminal conviction settles
A Chartered Surveyor who was the victim of a series of defamatory and harassing websites has settled his libel claim against their authors. Ian Phipps has won an apology and substantial damages from Paul Britton and his company Origin Design Ltd in respect of a long-running internet campaign against him. The apology took the form of a statement in open court read before His Honour Judge Moloney QC on Wednesday 20 May 2015.
The Defendants anonymously published a series of websites naming the Claimant and making very serious allegations about him, including that he was a convicted sex offender and a paedophile. Three of the websites were online for less than two months, but the final one was published for a period of almost two years.
In fact, none of the toxic and extremely damaging allegations made about the Claimant in the websites were true. He was a man of good character who had never been convicted of any offences, sexual or otherwise, and who had never exploited his position as a Chartered Surveyor.
The civil litigation came after the Claimant’s complaint to the police about the First Defendant’s campaign. Following investigations by the Claimant’s solicitors which revealed the First Defendant’s responsibility for publishing the websites, he pleaded guilty to one count of harassment in respect of three of the websites at Kingston Crown Court on 21 November 2014. Shortly after this, the Claimant sought relief in respect of the entirety of the Defendants’ campaign of libel and vilification.
Proceedings for libel were issued on 30 December 2014. On 10 February 2015 the Defendants’ offer to settle the proceedings by means of a suitable correction and apology in the form of a statement in open court, undertakings not to repeat the libels, and the payment of substantial damages and costs was accepted by the Claimant.