Law firm wins injunction against former client over online harassment

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29 September 2014

Internet: injunction requires offensive material to be removed

A law firm has won an injunction against a former client who set up websites about the firm with its name in the URL, after the High Court deemed his actions to be harassment.

The injunction also covered Rick Kordowski, who ran the infamous website, which was taken down , but was also involved in this case.

The injunction requires removal of the offending material from the internet and prohibits its reinstatement, and restrains the defendants from harassing partners and staff of the firm.

The unnamed firm acted for Daniel Beach between 2006 and 2010 on a number of matters, including in particular a public inquiry into a planning matter.

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In November 2010 he published a defamatory posting on the firm, its senior partner and another partner on a website operated by Mr Kordowski, over which the firm secured an interim injunction. Proceedings were discontinued after the 2011 action against Mr Kordowski.

But Mr Beach then registered a series of domain names incorporating the firm’s name, alleging corruption, failure to act in clients’ interests, conflict of interest and untruthfulness. Further material was published on a website operated by Mr Kordowski.

This lead to the application for another interim injunction under the Protection from Harassment 1997.

Ruling in QRS v Beach & Anor [] EWHC 3057 (QB), Mrs Justice Slade recorded: “The makers of the statements before the court write of the distress caused to them by these and the many other offensive postings made by or emanating from Mr Beach over a considerable period of time.

“Some have had enquiries about the postings from actual or potential clients. There is a real concern that the postings have affected and will affect their business and deter people from applying to work for the firm. They have an apprehension that in any meeting they will have to face questions about the offensive material and may be asked about it in a social context.”

The judge said the various statements published about the firm were “far more offensive than the unattractive and unreasonable conduct” which the case law has established as below the threshold for harassment. “They cross the line straying into ‘torment’ of the subjects of the vilification. The necessary inference to be drawn from the material is that Mr Beach knew that his conduct constitutes harassment…

“On the material before the court, there appears to be no defence to the claim of harassment.”

Further, said Slade J, it passed the test set out in the Human Rights Act 1998 that no relief is to be granted so as to restrain publication before trial which might affect the right to freedom of expression unless the court is satisfied that the applicant is likely to establish that publication should not be allowed.

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