Solicitor seeks injunction against RateYourSolicitor website

 

CONSUMER WEBSITE RateYourSolicitor.com is a “paradise of a happy hunting ground for unscrupulous defamers”, the High Court was told today.

Richard Humphreys SC, defending solicitor Damien Tansey from Boyle, Co Roscommon, said comments posted about his client on the site were “crude and extreme” and amounted to obvious defamation.

He sought an interlocutory injunction against John Gill of Drumline, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, whom he believed was involved in the production of the site along with Ann Vogelaar of Westport, Co Mayo, and American website host Dotster Inc of Washington. Mr Humphreys asked the court to grant the injunction prohibiting the publication of the negative comments. He also sought to have the site removed and to have all of the names and addresses of those who posted the material provided.

The popular website had been publishing negative comments about Mr Tansey, of Callan Tansey Solicitors, since July 2007. On affidavit, Mr Tansey said the comments implied he was engaged in illegal and dishonest activity and had failed to act in accordance with the high standards of his profession. The majority of the remarks had been posted anonymously, Mr Humphreys told the court. The site is “a paradise of a happy hunting ground for unscrupulous defamers,” he said. Mr Humphreys’s client had engaged an expert, Dr Mark Humphrys, of Dublin City University’s school of computing, to examine the site.

A “web beacon” was used to identify the IP address, an identification number, of one of the computers active on the site. A court order had then been obtained so Eircom could release the name and address of the person attached to the IP address. This identified Ms Vogelaar, Mr Humphreys said.

She has since claimed she was an unpaid volunteer and only dealt with queries from site users. She failed to comply with a court order requiring her to be present for yesterday’s hearing.

In a letter to Mr Justice Michael Peart she said she could not appear because she was on jobseeker’s allowance, had no one to represent her and felt the purpose was so that senior counsel could bully her.

The website itself was registered in the name of John Smith, Red Square, Moscow, Mr Humphreys said. He claimed Mr Gill was “heavily involved” in the moderation of the site.

Dotster Inc had chosen not to appear or respond to the claims, he said. Mr Gill, who was present in court as a lay litigant with a dozen supporters, said he had been asked by “victims of Mr Tansey” to help them. He named some individuals whom he said would be willing to be summoned to court to give evidence against the solicitor.

He said he was the contact for the website and he “put stuff on it”, but others did too. “I had nothing whatever to do with the website, only what I put on it,” he said.

Mr Justice Peart said he would reserve his judgment in the case.