Website accused of defamation is closed by judge
A JUDGE yesterday ordered a website to be shut down and said lawmakers should think about making it illegal to post "patently untrue" allegations about people on the internet.
Mr Justice Michael Peart was speaking after he granted Damien Tansey various orders, effectively ending the operation of the website www.rate-your-solicitor.com.
The Sligo-based solicitor brought defamation proceedings to the High Court arising out of comments on the website.
The action was against site operators John Gill, of Drumline, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare; and Ann Vogelaar, of Parklands, Westport, Co Mayo.
It is also against the US-based internet services provider, Dostster Inc, which hosts the site. Both Mr Gill and Ms Vogelaar denied the claims against them.
In his ruling, the judge said he was satisfied to grant injunctions against Mr Gill and Ms Vogelaar, pending the full hearing of the action, requiring them to end the operation of the website. They were also ordered to remove various material posted about Mr Tansey on the website and refrain from publishing further defamatory material about him.
They must also provide the names and address of all those involved in the posting of defamatory material. Mr Tansey also obtained similar orders against Dotster, which did not enter a defence.
The judge said he had no hesitation in making the orders as he was "entirely satisfied" that the material complained about "was seriously defamatory of Mr Tansey". He was also satisfied, from submissions made by Mr Gill, that any defence he wished to put forward at trial had no reasonable prospect of succeeding.
Calling for a change to the law, the judge said the internet has facilitated an easy, inexpensive and instant means of "allowing unscrupulous persons or ill-motivated malcontents to vent their anger and grievances against people, where their allegations are patently untrue and unreasonable". In some "extreme cases" such damage "can lead to suicide", he said.
The "mischief on the internet" was so serious that "in my view the Oireachtas should be asked to consider the creation of an appropriate offence under criminal law, with a penalty upon conviction to act as a real deterrent to the perpetrator".
"The civil remedies currently available have recently been demonstrated to be an inadequate means of prevention and redress," the judge added.
Mr Tansey, a partner in the firm Callan Tansey Solicitors, said that since July 2007 the website has published wrong ful material that damaged his character, reputation and business, resulting in him suffering embarrassment, loss and damage.