In September 2011, Rick Kordowski,
promoter of the website www.solicitorsfromhell.com,
issued a claim against Desmond Hudson, Chief Executive of the c in
respect of an alleged comment he made to Professor John Flood that
Rick Kordowski was a criminal. The comment was subsequently
published by Professor Flood on his blog.
Mr Kordowski, perhaps on a point of
principle rather than in reliance on the strength of his case, issued
a claim for slander, seeking relief by way of:
a declaration that Mr Hudsons
statement to Professor Flood was false and defamatory;
an order that Mr Hudson publish a suitable correction and apology;
damages not exceeding £10,000;
and an order restraining Mr Hudson from publishing or further publishing
In his defence, Mr Hudson submitted a plea of justification, stating
that he did not say Mr Kordowski was a criminal, but that his methods
of collecting payment in exchange for the removal of defamatory comments
from his website amounted to criminal behaviour.
On Friday 21 October 2011, Mr Justice Tugendhat considered Mr Kordowskis
application for summary judgement. He concluded that the application
was an abuse of process and that it was not capable of summary judgment
because it was impossible to say whether the defence had no real prospect
of success. In doing so, the learned judge identified the following
facts to be relevant:
(a) The major conflict of evidence
between the parties as to the exact words spoken by Mr Hudson.
(b) The words complained of were
spoken to a single person, and although the reference to Mr Kordowskis
being a criminal in itself is extremely serious, the
forum on which the comments were posted also included comments made
by Professor Flood that were supportive of Mr Kordowski. Therefore,
there was no evidence that Mr Hudsons alleged comments had
caused any real or substantial harm to Mr Kordowskis reputation.
(c) Mr Kordowski chose to post the
alleged comments he claimed to be defamatory on his own website,
which was in conflict with any suggestion that the threat of republication
and promotion of the comments to the world would tarnish his reputation.
Defamation a point of principle?
Claims for slander are by their very
nature difficult to prove as there is usually always a conflict of
evidence, and the matter will boil down to who a Court believes is
a more credible witness. As such, it is always worth exploring whether
a factual scenario has merit in pursuing a claim for libel (or even
malicious falsehood if the comments are not strictly defamatory but
they do cause damage). Indeed, in his judgment, Tugendhat J identified
that different factors would have been considered had Mr Kordowski
chosen to bring a claim for libel in relation to the words published
by Professor Flood, specifically as the publication of such a serious
allegation would have been addressed to the public at large.
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