A landmark legal ruling ordering a woman to pay £10,000 in damages for defamatory comments posted on an internet chatroom site could trigger a rush of similar lawsuits, a leading libel lawyer warned today.
Michael Smith, a Ukip activist who stood for the Portsmouth North seat last year, became the first person to win damages yesterday after being accused of being a “sex offender” and “racist blogger” on a Yahoo! discussion site.
Mr Smith, 53, from Fareham in Hampshire, sued Tracy Williams, of Oldham, for comments posted after she joined a rightwing online forum in 2002.
Judge Alistair MacDuff said in the high court that Ms Williams was “particularly abusive” and “her statements demonstrated that … she had no intention of stopping her libellous and defamatory behaviour”.
The judge ordered Ms Williams never again to repeat the “unfounded” defamatory remarks, which included calling Mr Smith a “nonce” and accusing him of sexual harassment.
Although ISPs have paid out for hosting defamatory comments, this case is thought to be the first time an individual has been found to have committed libel on a internet chat site.