Roger Whittaker

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Hellenic College: Father Mark's letter to parents (2)

Tuesday 6th June 2006

The letter (from Father Mark to the parents of the Hellenic College) which was at the following URL on this site:
has been removed following a threat of legal action.

It's an interesting story and one which I think perhaps throws as much light on the workings of the minds of the people involved as did Father Mark's original letter.

The person who took offence at seeing Mark's letter here obviously went to the trouble of finding out who hosts this site, and intructing a solicitor to use legal threats (of libel action, including criminal libel) to have the page taken down.

Of course, she could have simply walked across her office to the filing cabinet where details of past and present staff are kept, and looked up my home address and phone number, had she wished to discuss the matter with me.

But it seems that bullying a small hosting company (which is hamstrung by insane legal precedents that define hosting content as "publishing") seemed like a better idea.

As I had changed jobs, and had given my previous work e-mail to Bytemark as my administrative contact, when the original complaint from the College's solicitor came in, I didn't hear anything from Bytemark, who had forwarded the complaint.

In the meantime, two things happened.

When checking a lot of links, I noticed that the page with Father Mark's letter was unavailable, and looked into why. There was an .htaccess file restricting access to it, and the matching configuration change had been made. I was very surprised, as I didn't remember doing this, but in any case I did what I was going to do anyway and regenerated the whole site and synced it.

I also remembered that I needed to let Bytemark know of my new work email address.

So today, I was very surprised when I got a mail at work from Matthew at Bytemark forwarding a legal complaint.

I have just received a second letter from Veale Wasborough solicitors (cc'd) again demanding the take-down of the content at the above URL:


Dear Sirs

We write further to our letter of 19 May regarding the above web page ("the Web Page").

Thank you for your assistance in initially removing the Web Page from the internet and we note in particular your emails of 19 and 21 May.

However, we note that at some time around 31 May, the Web Page reappeared.

We expect that this is an administrative oversight. However, given the content of the material, as described in our letter of 19 May, we demand that you once again remove the Web Page from the internet. We also remind you that you are no longer able to rely on the defence of ignorance under the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 because our letter of 19 May put you on notice of the content of the Web Page.

Please ensure that the material contained in the Web Page does not reappear on any website hosted by you in the future.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Matthew went on to say that because of the legal status of hosting companies and Bytemark's inability to judge the merits of the case, he would have to take down my VM unless I removed the page. He also explained that in the absence of a reply from me to the original complaint he had blocked access to that page.

So I deleted the page.

The original letter from the solicitor (Melvin Jones of Veale Wasbrough Solicitors) began as follows:

Dear Sirs

We act for Hellenic College.

Our client wishes to draw your attention the content of the above web page ("the Web Page"), which appears to be hosted by you. We enclose a hard copy of the Web Page with the hard copy of this letter.

You will see that the Web Page contains statements about members of our client's staff. In particular, the Web Page contains:

He then goes on to outline the ways in which he thought the page in question made "groundless allegations" and continues:

The making of these statements constitutes defamation and malicious falsehood, for which the individuals in question are entitled to damages, an injunction and legal costs. The making of these statements also constitutes criminal libel, for which the perpetrator is liable for up to a year's imprisonment or a fine or both.

After I removed the page, I informed Matthew that I had done so, and he sent a mail copying Melvin Jones:

Thanks for your prompt call and removal of the content, Roger.

I appreciate that you only recently gave us a new email address which is why we had to take action after the first complaint, and why we received no reply from you until now.

I sent a further mail to Mr Jones as follows:

Dear Mr Jones

As you may wish to confirm, the content of which you have complained has been removed.

I have removed it in response to a request by Matthew Bloch of Bytemark Hosting.

Were I not constrained by the fact that hosting companies share legal liability in cases of libel, the answer would have been a simpler one, one which you may still feel free to pass on to Franciska Bayliss.

I refer, of course to that given in the well-known case of Arkell v Pressdram.

Yours sincerely

Roger Whittaker