Therapist awarded £75,000 in defamation and harassment damages against former colleague

In a judgment handed down on 1 November 2023, a claim brought by a therapist, Siobhain Crosbie, against a former colleague, Caroline Ley, has been dismissed as wholly without merit. The decision saw Ms Ley awarded £75,000 on her counterclaim in damages for defamation and harassment.

Ms Crosbie, a therapist who practises as APS Psychotherapy and Counselling, sued Caroline Ley, a therapist and director of Cherry Tree Therapy Centre Ltd, for passing off her business as Siobhain Crosbie’s own. The claim sought damages in excess of £1.4 million.

Ms Ley denied the claim in its entirety and brought a counterclaim against Ms Crosbie in defamation and harassment. The counterclaim was brought over Twitter and Facebook posts which had been published between 2016 and 2020 in which, primarily based on her allegations of passing off, Ms Crosbie accused Ms Ley of fraud and unethical conduct and said that she was a danger to her clients.

Following a two-day trial in March 2023, Mr Justice Julian Knowles dismissed the passing off claim as being totally without merit, finding that Ms Crosbie had failed to prove any actionable misrepresentation by Ms Ley and that there was no evidence that the alleged misrepresentation had caused any damage at all.

Ms Ley’s counterclaim succeeded, the Judge finding that the posts were false and defamatory and that there was no truth to Ms Crosbie’s allegations. The Judge found that the posts formed a part of an ongoing and public targeted vendetta by Ms Crosbie against Ms Ley, carried out over four years, which amounted to harassment of Ms Ley. He granted an injunction to restrain further publications and an order under s.12 of the Defamation Act 2013 for Ms Crosbie to publish a summary of the judgment, in addition to awarding general and aggravated damages.

5RB’s Gervase de Wilde acted for Caroline Ley at trial, instructed by Brett Wilson LLP.

The judgment can be found here.