A former Conservative local council candidate has taken the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights after he was blocked from suing Google over defamatory comments posted on a blog.
Payam Tamiz has previously won damages from the London Evening Standard over an April 2011 story alleging that he was forced to resign as a Tory candidate for Thanet when it emerged he was part of a Facebook group called “Girls in THANET… you are all slags, hoes, brasses and bheads”. Tamiz also took action against The Guardian, which followed up this story, but his claim was struck out of court.
A link to the Standard story was posted on the London Muslim blog, part of Google's Blogger platform, which repeated the claims and described him as a "Tory prat with Star Trek Spock ears".
Tamiz sued over the comments published beneath this post between 28 and 30 April that year. According to the ECHR legal claim, the comments alleged that Tamiz was a drug dealer who had stolen from his employer.
Tamiz claims that the blog and comments were available for three-and-a-half months as he tried to force Google to remove them.
He later brought a libel action against Google Inc, the US company, and its subsidiary, Google UK. The latter body settled the claim out of court.
In his legal papers, Tamiz claims that the High Court initially granted him permission to serve Google Inc with the claim form in the UK courts, but the US search engine successfully appealed this.
Tamiz then failed to overturn the decision in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
And on 31 December 2013 he filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the UK courts had breached his rights under sections 8 (privacy), 6 (fair trial) and 13 (effective remedy).
According to Tamiz, who is being represented by Amber Melville-Brown and Rupert Cowper-Coles of Withers LLP and Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers, this is now "waiting to be fully considered by the Court”.
In a statement, Tamiz said: “Ordinary people who find themselves attacked anonymously online should not have to accept the internet as a lawless 'Wild West' and take the consequences on the chin.
"The internet is the first port of call for finding information about anyone and we need to insist on laws which make web giants take responsibility for the information they host.
"English law should protect people from false allegations on the internet to the same degree that it protects people from lies in newspapers and books."
He added: “At the time, despite making every effort to compel them to remove the false allegations in question, it took weeks before Google took any notice at all and by then the damage was done.
"I am bringing this application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as I feel that ultimately both Google and English law let me down.
"In doing so, I am hoping to change the status quo to prevent other people having to go through the same ordeal that I did.”
In his application form to the ECHR, Tamiz claims the UK courts breached article 8 because "the domestic courts refused to grant the applicant any remedy against Google Inc for the resulting damage to his reputation".
The legal document said: "This interference with the applicant's Article 8 right to reputation was not necessary or proportionate.
"As a result of the positive obligation to protect the applicant's Article 8 rights the domestic courts should have held that Google Inc was liable in respect of the entire period of publication of the defamatory comments on the blogsite which it hosted, alternatively for the period beginning with the applicant's first letter of complaint.”
On article 6, the form said: "The Court of Appeal determined that there was no substantial tort on the basis that the defamatory comments had only been published for five weeks, having failed to consider or deal with the applicant's evidence that he had notified Google Ines subsidiary in the United Kingdom, Google UK Limited, more than two months earlier.
"Further, the Court of Appeal proceeded on the mistaken basis that the comments complained of would have been followed by new comments and would have 'receded into history'. This point was not argued and was not the subject of any evidence.
"It is, in fact, incorrect. Google Inc were not required to provide the Court with information as to the actual number of readers who had accessed the comments. Instead, the Court of Appeal decided the case on the speculative and incorrect basis that it was 'highly improbable' that any significant number of readers would have accessed the comments.”
The form added: “In the alternative, if the decision of the domestic courts that no substantial tort had been committed was correct, the United Kingdom was in breach of Article 13 ECHR in that the applicant had no effective remedy for the serious interferences with his Article 8 right to reputation which had taken place as a result of the publication of defamatory comments on the 'London Muslim' blogsite.”