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Ally Tow,
SENIOR ASSOCIATE - CHARTERED LEGAL EXECUTIVE
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Publications of websites can amount to harassment
21 April 2015

In Rada–Ortiz v Espinosa-Vadillo (2015) the applicant was granted an interim injunction ordering the respondent to remove certain websites from the internet.

The applicant had been a long-term employee of the International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”).  The respondent had been a temporary employee for a short period.  During his employment he and another person had made allegations against the applicant. Following an internal investigation by the IMO in 2012 it was found that some of the allegations had foundation. The applicant was approaching retirement and the IMO therefore decided that she would not be further engaged.

In early 2014 four websites were activated. One was registered in the respondent’s name with the others being linked to that site. One site contained 46 references to the applicant and included four photographs of her taken without her consent. The site described the applicant as a “confirmed” and “long-term” “abuser” who had caused serious injury to the respondent.

In April 2014 the respondent handed out leaflets outside the IMO’s offices advertising the websites.

Some months later the applicant became aware of the websites and made an immediate application for an injunction seeking the removal of the same. The applicant contended that the websites formed part of a campaign which gave a grossly exaggerated and sensationalised account of the respondent’s allegations constituting harassment as defined in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (“the Act”) .

Although by the time of the hearing, the website registered in the respondent’s name had been removed, the court found that the continued publication of the websites amounted to conduct which had occurred at least twice and was calculated to cause alarm and distress as required by Section 7 of the Act.

The court held that a reasonable person would find the publication to be unacceptable, oppressive and unpleasant. The photographs identified the applicant and were taken in breach of her confidence when she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to them and the internal inquiry. The respondent had exaggerated and sensationalised the events beyond recognition – his course of conduct could in no way be said to be reasonable. Accordingly, an interim injunction ordering him to remove the websites was appropriate. 

For more information about the issues in this article or to find out more about how the Dispute resolution team can help you please contact the Ally Tow on 0118 952 7206 or email atow@boyesturner.com.

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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