£40k damages awarded for libellous tweet
Steve Wood, a previous chairman of a branch of UKIP has been ordered to pay significant damages to Zahir Monir, a Labour candidate. Mr Monir was described in a tweet as one of a group of "child grooming" taxi drivers during the 2015 election campaign.
This case is significant, as Mr Wood did not tweet the message himself. It was written by someone else, using the Twitter account for Mr Wood's UKIP branch.
Nevertheless, the judge decided that Mr Wood should pay damages of £40,000 to Mr Monir, as the author of the tweet was acting on Mr Wood's behalf.
Judith Thompson, specialist libel partner at Samuels Solicitors LLP said: "This case breaks new ground for libel law, as the person who actually wrote the tweet was not the one sued. It is also interesting that a small number of people read the post, and several knew that it was untrue, and yet significant damages were still awarded".
One of the factors the judge took into consideration when awarding damages, was Mr Wood's attitude. He refused to apologise or settle the case.
The case also has wider significance for any organisation running Twitter accounts, where responsibility for tweets is delegated to junior staff. The judgment makes it clear that the person who actually writes the libellous tweet, might not be the person who is ultimately held responsible.
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