Internet defamation leads to £10,000 libel damages

A UK politician has won a court case after allegations of sexual misconduct were posted in an Internet chat room
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

Michael Keith Smith of the UK Independence Party has become the latest person to win substantial damages after being defamed on the Internet.

Smith brought the case against Tracy Williams after she posted a series of derogatory remarks about him on an online discussion board run by Yahoo. Williams has been ordered to pay £17,000 after being found guilty of libel.

The accusations included claims that Smith was a racist and guilty of sexual offences, and were made as part of an online discussion about the Iraq war in 2003.

Smith had argued in favour of the conflict, which prompted Williams to label him a "lard brain", and later to falsely claim he had sexually harassed a  colleague.

Williams' remarks were made under a pseudonym, and in 2004 Smith obtained a court order forcing Yahoo to reveal the identity of the poster. He then brought his case to the High Court, claiming that Williams had continued to abuse him online.

Judge Alistair MacDuff, who heard the case, ordered Ms Williams to pay Mr Smith £10,000 damages and never again to repeat the remarks, which he described as "seriously defamatory". Williams, who did not file a defence, must also pay £7,200 costs.

Legal experts have suggested that Smith's victory could encourage other people to bring cases.

The landmark Godfrey vs Demon case in 2000 established that statements posted online were not beyond the reach of the law, and this case looks to have set a similarly important precedent.

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