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£10,000 damages awarded for internet libel

A former parliamentary candidate for the UK Independence Party has been awarded £10,000 in damages after winning a defamation case. Michael Keith Smith had sued over postings in an internet chat room.23 Mar 2006

Advert: Free OUT-LAW breakfast seminars, UK-wide: open source software; and data retentionAccording to reports, Smith, who put himself forward for the Portsmouth North seat at the last election, was a participant in a discussion on the Iraq war, held on a discussion board run by Yahoo!. Another participant, Tracy Williams, had taken objection to his anti-war comments and, using an alias, had posted a series of defamatory remarks about Mr Smith.

These included calling him a racist and a sex offender, according to reports. Smith sued, obtained court orders enabling him to identify the person behind the remarks, and has now won a defamation action against Williams.

Judge Alistair MacDuff ruled that the remarks were clearly defamatory and awarded Smith £10,000 damages. He issued an injunction, prohibiting Williams from repeating the remarks, and ordered her to pay the costs involved in bringing the action.

Ms Williams did not defend the action.

"I'm happy with the judge's ruling but firms hosting online chat rooms should be prepared to get involved and step in to moderate defamatory statements,” Smith told The Guardian newspaper.