Guest Blog Post: Matthew Richardson on "Blaney’s Blarney or the case of the Tweeted injunction"

In the wake of recent worldwide news coverage and social media reactions over the “Blaney’s Blarney Order”: See my earlier blog post:  [UPDATED] Blaney’s Blarney Order: English court orders service of an injunction via Twitter, I am pleased to introduce as The Trial Warrior’s second guest blogger, Mr. Matthew Richardson  (Gray’s Inn (2006), MEng (Hons)(Oxon), PGDL (College of Law), MIET), of 7 New Square Barristers, one of the UK’s leading Law Chambers.Mr. Richardson successfully completed his pupillage at 7NSQ part of which was spent working in the legal department of Imperial Innovations, the company responsible for spinning out the intellectual property of Imperial College, where he gained commercial experience in a legal setting. As counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Donal Blaney, Matthew kindly provides us with an exclusive “insider’s view” of how he developed and implemented this precedent-setting alternative method of service of process using Twitter.

“Blaney’s Blarney or the case of the Tweeted injunction”

Donal Blaney runs a successful blog called Blaney’s Blarney (www.donalblaney.com) commenting on UK and international politics from a right wing and sometimes controversial perspective. Donal also has an account on Twitter @Donal_Blaney. Earlier this year his was ranked as the 24th best political blog in the UK by Total Politics Magazine (www.totalpolitics.co.uk). In mid-September a Twitter account was setup by someone other than Donal under the name @Blaneys_Blarney, the account claimed to be Donal Blaney with a picture of Donal, a link to his blog. The person running the fake account began following Donal’s followers many of whom followed back believing @Blaneys_Blarney to be the real Donal @Blaneys_Blarney to be the real Donal.On 19th September Donal sent a message to @Blaneys_Blarney asking them to stop and warning them that dire consequences would result in refusal. For a short period the fake account stopped posting but around 24th September began again. At this time Donal was on holiday and was unaware of the goings on. When he returned he became gravely concerned as many of his friends, colleagues and clients were interacting with the fake account as if it was him.

The day Donal returned back from holiday I was instructed to devise a way to have the account taken down immediately and find the person responsible. Donal also advised that he did not want to spend much money on this nor did he want to start getting Twitter directly involved in litigation as there would be a potentially huge costs risk.The first suggestion was to report the fake account Twitter and have it taken down. From past experience this would take around a week and the person responsible would never be known. This was, therefore, discounted as an option.

The next suggestion was the tried and tested method of identifying anonymous people on the internet is by mean of a Norwich Pharmacal Order, which compels a third party uninvolved in any potential litigation to reveal any information they have which would assist. However that would have involved Twitter directly, and as they are not within the Jurisdiction of the High Court they would have been difficult to enforce upon (although not impossible). It was also likely that whosoever had set up this account would have probably given false registration information and so a second Norwich Pharmacal Order against the Internet Service Provider. This option would have been very expensive approach and would have taken some time and so was the fall back position.

What was required was a creative solution to the problem and hence the Blaney’s Blarney order. Due to a recent change in the English rules relating to service (Civil Procedure Rules – Rule 6) it has become possible to serve documents in anyway the Court deems fit. In this case, as the only way to contact the impersonator was via Twitter, the Mr Justice Lewison sitting in the High Court agreed to allow service of an injunction to stop posting and preserve all the data and an order to compel the impersonator to identify themselves.

The order was served by sending a direct message to the offending party which read “You are hereby ordered by the High Court of Justice to read and obey the following {link}”.

The link was clicked, the Order obeyed and the rest is history.

I have been asked what would have happened if the Order had not been followed. In, keeping with the spirit of this blog and what it stands for, I can assure you that I did have a plan for that eventuality but to reveal what it was would give away a huge advantage. So perhaps that is the subject of a future post but suffice it to say if you receive a Blaney’s Blarney Order I suggest that you obey it.

Note: The Trial Warrior Blog also wishes to express its thanks to the Claimant, Mr. Donal Blaney, for authorizing his counsel to provide The Trial Warrior Blog with a copy of the “Blaney’s Blarney Order” of Mr. Justice Lewison of the English High Court of Justice, Chancery Division dated October 1, 2009. Any inquiries regarding obtaining copies of the court order should be directed to Mr. Richardson.

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