Victims of online reputation attacks and online intimidation should take their cases to the High Court instead of reporting them to the police.
In a recent court case where a hospital administrator became the first man in the UK to be jailed for stalking a woman by blogs, the authorities have sent a strong message to all those who wrongly believe that the internet is a lawless land where stalking, bullying, harassment, defamation and blackmail are a fair game and have demonstrated that online harassment shall not be tolerated in our society.
In a case which was heard by a Magistrate Court in Manchester it was alleged that a 38 year old man continuously attacked his female victim by using no less than 35 website blogs in which he repeatedly insulted her, causing her upset and reputational damage. The man also used emails to harass his victims as well as social networking sites such as Facebook.
It is not surprising at all that it took the authorities 18 months before the man was finally jailed. By this time, his victim must have been completely destroyed mentally and emotionally. Her confidence must have been shattered and her trust in people would have been replaced with cynicism and weariness. Had this hate campaign been conducted offline, I have no doubt that the authorities would have acted much quicker to bring it to a halt.
By the time the offender was jailed, he had already appeared in court on a number of occasions. On one occasion, after he admitted harassment, an order was made against him to refrain from mentioning his victim’s name on any websites. Again, it appears it took some time before this very limited court order was made and even longer, before breaches were dealt with.
It is very likely, that had this been a case of domestic harassment, where more traditional methods of harassment were being used, the victim would have been relieved from her pain much, much earlier. It seems that the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Magistrates’ Courts are not yet ready to effectively deal with these sorts of online harassment cases. The civil courts however are much quicker to act in response to online harassment cases with injunctions being granted within days rather than months and years. Victims of online harassment should be wise to take their cases to the High Court where solicitors can obtain a much more comprehensive injunction on their behalf within 48 hours. There is no need for victims of online harassment to suffer for such a long time before the harassment is stopped.
Despite him being jailed, large number of the defamatory blogs that the offender had created against his victim still remain active and is visible to the entire world to view. It is likely that a properly prepared High Court injunction would have ensured that the blogs and websites were removed by the internet service providers and that once such an injunction was granted, it could last for life, preventing anyone from taking part in the publication of material which is prohibited by the court order.
During his online campaign of harassment, the offender boasted of being so skilled in IT that he could set up and manipulate blogs about his victim quicker than they could be deleted.
It is not unusual for IT skilled individuals to blackmail their victims by making threats to destroy their victim’s reputation unless certain demands being met. The police have seemed to so far, failed to recognise the fact that this form of blackmail is a criminal offence, mainly out of ignorance and lack of resources. These sorts of threats should be taken very seriously and perpetrators of such online threats should be told about the civil as well as the criminal implications of their actions.