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Sex Worker Target of Internet Harassment Wins High Court Injunction

Online harassment is an unfortunate by-product of the Internet age, but victims who obtain specialist legal advice are far from powerless. In one case, a transgender escort obtained a High Court injunction tailored to bring her persecution to an end.

The escort, who provided sexual and companionship services to her clients, had endured deep distress after information, or purported information, about her sex life and physical and mental health were published online. She said that her business has suffered greatly due to an untrue allegation that she had HIV/AIDS.

Despite extensive efforts, it had proved impossible to identify the source of the online posts, although it was believed that one male individual was responsible. Solicitors representing the escort were not deterred by that difficulty, however, and issued proceedings against ‘persons unknown’.

The Court noted that the nature of the escort’s work was relevant and that it would be going too far to say that a person providing sexual services for reward has an unqualified right to decide what information about themselves should or should not be made public. People in her line of work could be expected to put up with some unwanted disclosures about themselves.

However, in granting the injunction, the Court found that the escort had been subjected to a prolonged and persistent course of conduct that was plainly deliberate and had caused her considerable distress that could not be compensated for by money. The information published, much of which was said to be untrue and defamatory, was of an intimate, sensitive and plainly private nature.

The injunction, amongst other things, required the person, or persons, responsible for the posts to do all in their power to procure the erasure of offending information from the Internet. The escort’s solicitors intended to circulate the order to Internet providers, search engines and websites on which the posts had appeared, with a view to terminating the campaign of harassment.

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