The Internet can be a jungle, as one innocent chartered surveyor found out when he was subjected to a venomous online harassment campaign. However, in a case which revealed the power of the courts to police the web, he won a public apology and substantial libel damages after obtaining legal advice.
The surveyor had commissioned a company to design a website for him; however, there was a dispute over payment. The company’s managing director responded by anonymously condemning the surveyor online as a dangerous paedophile and rapist who exploited his professional status to enter people’s homes with the intention of sexually molesting them.
He was in fact of entirely good character and had always carried out his work with scrupulous propriety. The online accusations had caused him enormous distress and damage, both personally and professionally. The perpetrator was ultimately tracked down by the police and pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment.
After the surveyor launched defamation proceedings against the perpetrator and his company, both expressed their ‘deep remorse’ at the High Court. They apologised unreservedly for the hurt and upset caused to the surveyor and agreed to pay him damages as well as his legal costs. Their lawyers said that they regretted that the offending web pages were ever published.