Solicitor secures injunction to stop web harassment

Website: Defendant did not take it down

A partner at listed law firm Knights has secured a High Court injunction to prevent a former Oxford University student making “false and damaging allegations” against him.

Mrs Justice Steyn said the court was justified in entering a default judgment in favour of Martin John Bourne as he had “good causes of action for libel and harassment”.

Steyn J said Mr Bourne had advised the university’s Linacre College – a graduate college – in disciplinary proceedings against the defendant, Hamed Ahmadi Nejad.

Mr Bourne, based at Knights in Oxfordshire, sought a final injunction to restrain Mr Nejad from continuing to publish certain defamatory words on a website and from pursuing “any conduct which amounts to harassment”.

Mr Bourne was granted an interim injunction in June last year restraining Mr Nejad from describing him as a “dirty solicitor” whose role was to “harass and intimidate students who threaten the college’s interests”, such as those who speak out “against the college’s crimes”.

Steyn J said the allegations were published on a website, and Mr Nejad had not adduced any evidence to counter the allegation that he was the source of them.

She said she accepted the argument of Mr Bourne’s counsel that the suggestion that a solicitor was “dirty” was defamatory.

Mr Bourne’s particulars of claim pleaded that the “defendant played on his unpredictable and dangerous reputation” in his emails to cause the claimant anxiety.

Steyn J went on: “For example, as the claimant states in evidence, the defendant wrote to him that he ‘will show you no such mercy’ and that ‘you’re putting your career, your reputation and your firm’s reputation on the line’; and he sent him an email containing the single word ‘pussy’.”

On one day last year, Mr Bourne’s solicitor, Harry Wells, said Mr Nejad sent the partner an email comprising solely of the lyrics of the rap song ‘Can’t Be Touched’, and another that simply said: “We are coming.”

Mr Wells described how Mr Nejad also sent him emails which intimidated and harassed him further.

She agreed with Mr Bourne’s counsel that his particulars of claim and “uncontested evidence” were sufficient to disclose a good cause of action in harassment.

Delivering judgment in Bourne v Nejad [2019] EWHC (QB), Steyn J said Mr Bourne applied for an injunction in June 2018. The defendant chose not to respond.

His Honour Judge Sephton QC granted an injunction the same month restraining the defendant from publishing the allegations.

Mr Wells described how efforts were made to serve the orders and a claim form for a final injunction on Mr Nejad but he “evaded service”. This was finally done in September 2018 after a circuit judge granted permission to serve them by email.

The court heard that the defendant failed to file an acknowledgement of service or defence to the claim.

Mr Bourne applied for judgment in default in November 2018. Mr Wells said that, despite the interim injunction, Mr Nejad continued to publish the words mentioned in the order and to harass Mr Bourne.

“The defendant is fully aware of the contents of the interim injunction and has taken no steps to remove the web page relating to the claimant.

“Indeed, additions have been made to the offending website which refer to this ‘failed’ court action.”

Mr Neyad did not attend the High Court hearing earlier this month and was not represented. Steyn J said he “had chosen not to engage with these proceedings”.

The judge said Mr Bourne was entitled to judgment in default and a final injunction. Mr Nejad was ordered to pay £27,750 in costs.

Mr Nejad has been in contact with Legal Futures to say that he has not been evading service – he was and is out of the country, and criticised the fact that the case was being pursued in his absence.

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