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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Plumber cleared of internet harassment

This Kat is always amazed at the opportunities, both for good deeds and for bad deeds, that are available due to advances in internet technology. It is on this basis that she was intrigued by the proceedings against Ian Puddick, a plumber from Enfield, North London, in Westminster Magistrates Court concerning claims of harrassing his wife Leena's millionaire lover, Timothy Haynes, over the internet.


Mrs Puddick met Mr Haynes when she joined the global insurance firm Guy Carpenter as a secretary where he worked as a director in 1997. The affair began after a Christmas party in 2002 and would continue for several years. It was alleged that Mr Haynes sent Mrs Puddick some 30 to 40 text messages a day. Some were sexually explicity such as 'Where do you want to have sex next — in the office, al fresco, at the flat, or all three? You greedy girl'. Others said Mrs Puddick was 'the most desirable girl in the world' and 'reassuringly expensive' because of her lavish taste in champagne.


The affair came to light when Mr Puddick discovered one such text whilst he was sunbathing in his garden and a message came through on Mrs Puddick's phone. The message was from Mr Haynes and included graphic references to a sex act he had performed on Leena, ­accompanied by a picture of him performing a sex act on himself. The pictures were accompanied by the words 'You are such a sensual girl'.

Mr Puddick decided publicise the affair. He contacted Mr Haynes’ boss, his clients and his wife to claim that Mr Haynes had abused his expense account to ­seduce Mrs Puddick. Next, Mr Puddick even spoke at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner in London and camped for seven days outside ­Parliament to tell his story to anyone who would listen. Still enraged, Mr Puddick flooded the internet with evidence of the affair. He created numerous websites with his allegations against Mr Haynes (including videos and excerpts from Mr Haynes’ love letters). He detailed the affair on Twitter and FaceBook and created a fake page on LinkedIn in the name of Mr Haynes so that potential clients would learn of Mr Haynes' behaviour.


Was this harassment?


In the UK, the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 provides both civil and criminal remedies for harassment. In relation to civil provisions, section 1(1) provides that a person must not pursue a course of conduct (a)which amounts to harassment of another, and (b)which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other. According to section 1(2), the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other. In relation to the criminal provisions, section 2(1) states that a person who pursues a course of conduct in breach of section 1 is guilty of an offence. Under section 2(2), a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both. These provisions are sufficiently wide to cover posting on the internet and 'anti harassment' injunctions have been granted in a number of cases to restrain the publication of material on Wikipedia and Facebook.


Ultimately Mr Puddick was charged with two counts of
harassing Mr Haynes and his family on Facebook and Twitter under the criminal provisions in the 1997 Act. After a three day trial in Westmister Magistrates Court, District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe delivered a verdict of not guilty. The judge ruled Puddick's actions did not form a 'course of conduct' and dismissed the charges.

In an interview, Mr Puddick told the Sunday Mirror: 'Haynes abused his position of authority to sleep with my wife, and then he thought he could use his money and influence to bully me all the way to jail. Well this is a ­victory for the little guy over the bullies and it is a victory for free speech'.

The IPKat ponders that in pursuing Mr Puddick for harassment, Mr Haynes gave his philandering such public exposure that it would otherwise have achieved. Indeed, Mr Haynes said in court that 'I think most of the country - thanks to the internet - is aware I had an affair'.

Merpel poses the question: would you have used the internet like Mr Puddick if you found yourself in similar circumstances?

4 comments:

Billy Bunter said...

To update the words of Richmal Crompton:

I didn't use the internet to publicise her affair! I wasn't after revenge! There wasn't any opportunity for revenge, and I never sought it, and I hardly said anything! I say, you fellows - ow! Oh crikey!

Jim Davies said...

The Ryan Giggs effect!

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess it's a bit late for one of your country's bizarre super injunctions!

Oh well, America's hero is Joe the Plumber.

You Brits now have Ian the Plumber.

And Merpel will always plumb the depths of any good story about the dissemination of knowledge and the laws that make this possible.

Rule, Britannia!

Mighty Merpel!

Anonymous said...

Contrast this with the situation in America regarding 'Wiener'...would you consider taking action against the press for re-publishing the various photo's, twitter messages, digging up additional images, etc.? Why should the situation be different when 'the little guy' does the same?

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