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Injunction harassment. The case of Jesus Espinosa Vadillo

harassment website

Online harassment can occur even if the information published is true

 This is another ground-breaking internet law case by Cohen Davis solicitors. Lawyer Yair Cohen instructed by a former senior employee at the United Nations to put an end to harassment on the internet by another UN employee.

Protection from Harassment interim injunction obtained by Cohen Davis in favour of former senior UN employee  RADA-ORTIZ and ESPINOSA VADILLO [2015] EWHC 2175 (QB).

Meet Jesus Espinosa Vadillo, a former United Nations' (“UN”) temporary employee. In 2014 JEV, who worked as an interpreter at the UN's International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”), felt aggrieved about the way he believed he was being treated by his department manager.

He instigated a UN internal investigation concerning his alleged mistreatment. The special investigation committee dismissed most of his allegations but nevertheless made some minor findings in his favour. Shortly after, both JEV and his former boss at the UN left the organisation.

 JEV then went on to create a number of websites, setting out his allegations against the UN and against his former boss personally, in full, including presenting witness statements and documents setting out the outcome of the UN special committee’s findings. His former boss, Mrs MRO, felt harassed by those websites and wanted them removed from the internet.

Cohen Davis wrote to JEV who failed to respond. Cohen Davis then proceeded to apply for an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 after we traced Mr Espinosa-Vadillo to his home address and served on him a notice of the hearing. The injunction was granted by Cranston J who ordered JEV to delete the harassing websites and to never repeat the allegations therein again. The injunction was later renewed in JEV’s presence during subsequent court hearings. After he complied with the injunction and deleted the harassing websites, his victim agreed to have the injunction discharged after JEV gave his undertaking to the court to continue to comply with the prohibitions in the original injunction.

This case has significant implications to victims of online harassment and to those who use the internet to harass others:

Online harassment can occur even if the information published is true

First, the judges agreed that even when a website contains information which might be true, the website might still be considered as harassing and therefore could become the subject of an injunction, regardless of the truthfulness of the information it contains.

Online harassment can occur even if all that is published is one website

Second, the the court found that the continued publication of the websites amounted to conduct which had occurred at least twice and was calculated to cause alarm and distress as required by Section 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This means that even the publication of a single website, or even a single page on a website, might be considered as a ‘course of conduct’ because the website is repeatedly being published and republished.

A website might be harassing because it is considered the modern equivalent of the use of megaphone

Third, Cranston J accepted the proposition that “where there is continuous publication on a website, that is equivalent to a mode of delivery like the continuous use of a megaphone.” This means that the constant presence of certain information on the internet, whether factual or not, continually alerts and notifies the general public about the information. It also means the information follows its victim wherever he or she goes, 24/7, day and night, and could be considered as harassing conduct by those who publish the information.

Online harassment can occur by publishing information together with images of someone

Fourth, the court also accepted that publication of images of an individual, together with information about them, regardless of its accuracy, could also be considered as harassing conduct.

Repeating the same allegations regardless of their truthfulness on various websites could constitute online harassment

Fifth, Cranston J found that the excessive publication and the repetition of some of the information published on the websites about Mrs MRO had elements of oppression, and were therefore considered as harassment. This could mean that the action of someone who goes on different websites to publish unpleasant information about an individual could be considered as harassing because of the excessive and repeated publication.

Conclusion

If you feel that you are a victim of harassment, then you probably are. Even if the information published about you is true, even if it concerns tribunal or court decisions, the publication might still be considered harassing, which means we might be able to have it taken down for you. The law on online harassment is moving on with every case that we take on, which means that if you feel harassed on the internet it is worth you giving us a call to find out how we can help. Our very friendly, supportive and experienced team is always ready to give you the advice and guidance that you most likely need.

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