Justice Tagenhat in the case of The Law Society v Kordowski issued injunctions requiring the Defendant, the publisher of the “Solicitors from Hell”, owned and operated by the Defendant since 2005 to take down the Website and refrain from publishing any similar website.
The website was a name and shame style website which charged a fee for disaffected consumers of legal services to post mostly anonymously about Solicitors and firms they felt wronged by.
The offensive behaviour under the Data Protection Act 1998 had unsuccessfully been brought to the attention of the Information Commissioner, whose responsibility is to promote observance of the Act by individuals. However the Information Commissioner wrote to the Law Society expressing the view that they were unable to intervene in preventing any unlawful use of data under the Act. s36 of the Act states that personal data is exempt from the data protection principles in the Act. The Information Commissioner expressed the opinion that although the website owner was a data controller for the purposes of the Act, the instigators of the website content are generally private individuals expressing their own views via the third party website, and were thus outside the operation of the Act.
Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson described the website as a vehicle for pursuing personal grudges and vendettas against conscientious and reputable firms and legal professionals. Law Society Solicitors claim the website served “no legitimate purpose” as it merely besmirched the good names of Solicitors. He stated that there are appropriate impartial forums and tribunals for dissatisfied consumers of legal services to make complaints against Solicitors.
Kordowski questioned why the Law Society was inappropriately taking action against him on behalf of all 150,000 solicitors in England and Wales for exposing bad Lawyers, whilst funding a Legal Ombudsman to the tune of over £20 million per year which has rejected 90% of the 38,155 complaints it has received over a six month period. Lawyers accused Kordowski of running a thinly veiled extortion racket, offering to remove negative commentary for a fee.
Had the Law Society For England and Wales not launched legal action against the defendant in a representative capacity as an organisation, the approximately 354 individuals Solicitors and law firms whose names featured on the site would have had to have taken libel action in their own right. The Plaintiff is a professional body established by Royal Charter, representing its members interests in England and Wales.
However, the law society’s judgement has been effectively thwarted as the internet knows no boundaries. A plethora of similar websites have emerged, some of which enjoy protection from UK authorities being hosted abroad. Some are believed to have sprung up in reaction to the judgement, whilst some domain names pre-dated the registration of www.Solicitorsfromhell.co.uk. They include Avoiding Bad Solicitors, www.cowboysolicitors.com, www.solicitorsfromhell2.com, and www.solicitorsfromhell.com.
Domain name checks reveal that www.Solicitorsfromhell2.com is registered to a US citizen. The United States Speech Act would render the owners immune from enforcement of foreign libel judgements that don’t meet US first amendment standards.
The website owners of www.solicitorsfromhell2.com are enabling consumers disillusioned with poor quality legal services to upload articles about Solicitors from within the UK or anywhere else in the world. By registering the domain name with a US company, in the name of a US citizen, hosted on US servers the domain enjoys a lot more protection, being beyond the reach of UK regulators. The UK has relatively friendly libel laws compared to the US.
It is believed that the owners of Solicitorsfromhell.com were supporters of Kordowski’s efforts to expose bad practices on the internet. www.solicitorsfromhell2.com was registered only two days after Justice Tagenhat’s judgement was handed down.
Some of the website owners are claiming that it is difficult to complain about Solicitors
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