WPP libel and privacy trial begins

Sir Martin Sorrell claims former WPP consultant responsible for blog and email

The trial of the libel and privacy actions bought by Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and CEO of the WPP advertising and marketing group, against Italian businessmen Mr Benatti and Mr Tinelli started today.


The trial relates to a defamatory blog that Sir Martin says made serious and untrue allegations about him and a highly offensive jpeg that he claims invaded his privacy.  A link to blog and the jpeg were widely circulated by e-mail in March/April 2006, the recipients all being blind copied.  Those responsible for the e-mails went to extreme lengths to cover their tracks, which included the setting up of various e-mail accounts in different jurisdictions.


Sir Martin and his co-claimant in the privacy action, Ms Weber, allege that Mr Benatti, Mr Tinelli and/or employees of their company, FullSix, were responsible for the setting up of the blog and the dissemination of the offensive jpeg. Mr Benatti was involved in WPP, until there was a serious falling out in January 2006 and Mr Benatti’s role within WPP was terminated.


The defendants all deny responsibility and do not rely on any other substantive defences.


At the Pre-Trial Review it was agreed that the actions should be heard together before Mr Justice Eady, sitting without a jury.  It appears to be the first time that a judge has heard a libel and privacy action at the same time.


The trial will hear evidence from experts on the forensic data recovered from the defendants’ computers, as well as documents which show details of the blind copy recipients by using information obtained from Yahoo! showing the ‘e-mail headers’.


5RB’sDesmond Browne QC and David Sherborne, instructed by Carter-Ruck, are appearing for Sir Martin Sorrell and Ms Weber.  Sara Mansoori is also involved in the actions.