Football Fan Must Pay £18,000 Libel Damages for Angry Internet Post
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot say whatever you like on the Internet and ill-considered comments posted in anger can prove extremely costly. In one case, a disgruntled football fan was ordered to pay £18,000 in libel damages after falsely describing a club’s in-house lawyer as a ‘well-known struck off solicitor’.
The fan was deeply upset by the way that the club was being managed and posted his comment on a website that was popular with supporters. In the end, he did not dispute that the comment was false, in that the lawyer had never been struck off and remained a practising solicitor of good standing, and summary judgment had been entered against him.
In assessing the amount of damages payable, the High Court noted that the post, which had remained in place for about three weeks, had probably been viewed by hundreds, rather than thousands, of people and had caused no lasting harm to the lawyer’s reputation. The fan had ultimately apologised.
The seriousness of the libel was, however, aggravated by the fan’s late admission of liability and his persistent pursuit of other damaging slurs against the lawyer. The libel was not one that could be construed as merely tongue in cheek. The fan was also ordered to pay the substantial legal costs of the case.