One of the first Twitter Libel cases has been brought in the UK to Cardiff. Earlier this month the The High Court in Cardiff approved the settlement of its very own Twitter Libel case involving two local South Wales Councillors.
On 4th June 2009, Councillor Colin Elsbury, defamed fellow Councillor Edward John Talbot by posting a tweet to his Twitter page suggesting that Councillor Talbot had to be removed by the Police from a Polling Station during the Caerphilly County Borough Council Local Government Elections for the St Martins Ward - an election to which both parties were candidates. The tweet was completely false and Councillor Talbot began defamation proceedings against Councillor Elsbury last year.
The case reached its climax when the High Court heard of the settlement agreed between the Councillors which included a written apology from Councillor Elsbury, a reactivation of his Twitter Page to publish the apology, compensation of £3,000 and payment of Councillor Talbot's substantial legal costs.
In an open Court, Councillor Talbots Solicitor, read an agreed statement in which Councillor Elsbury accepted that the tweet was completely untrue and defamatory of Councillor Talbot and unreservedly apologised to him for the distress, hurt and damage to his reputation that the tweet caused.
The High Court in Cardiff rarely deals with defamation cases. However, given the determination of Councillor Talbot and his legal team to clear his good name and the "No Win No Fee" arrangement between Councillor Talbot and his legal team he was able to bring this case to justice and obtain proper legal redress.
Jo Shelley, Partner and Head of Company/ Commercial at leading Chester Law Firm Hillyer McKeown commented “’Tweet’ and you have chance to say what you want in 140 characters or less. It sounds simple enough but what if your tweet is defamatory? What if your employees are making defamatory tweets about your business or your competitors? What if a customer or a competitor is making defamatory tweets about your staff or your products and services? Twitter provides a fast paced easy method of communication but businesses need to ensure they and their employees are affording such comments the same respect they would to any other written material they produce".
Jo continued, "Businesses should ensure they have a suitable social media policy place in order that all employees appreciate what are acceptable comments and guidelines and procedures to minimise risks of making defamatory comments via any social networking media. Businesses should also regularly review social media comments about their business and take action where necessary to protect their online reputation. It’s easy to be glib in fast, short communications but the risks in light of the recent case of the UK’s first Twitter Libel mean that such tweets may come home to roost.
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