With the increase in use of the internet and social media, it is becoming more difficult to take action against cybercrime and defamation, particularly where individuals can hide their identity behind user accounts e.g. an anonymous blogger. Do you wish to bring a claim for defamation against someone online but you do not know their identity? We can assist you in legally identifying the anonymous prospective defendant.
What is a Norwich Pharmacal relief?
A Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) requires an individual or organisation involved in wrongdoing, whether intentionally or innocently but who is unlikely to be a party to the proceedings to disclose certain documents or information to the applicant.
If you have been subject to defamation online, you can apply to the court for a Norwich Pharamacal Order to identify a wrongdoer, obtain the source of information contained in a publication, trace assets and identify the full nature of the wrongdoing to enable you to plead your case. For example you can apply for an order for a website or social media platform to disclose details of a user account publishing defamatory statements about you or your organisation (Totalise plc v Motley Fool Ltd  EWCA Civ 1897).
How do I apply for a Norwich Pharmacal Order?
There will be three conditions which need to be met before a Court will grant such an application for an NPO:
- There is an act of wrongdoing which has been or has arguably been committed by an ultimate wrongdoer;
- There must be a need for the NPO to enable you to take action against this unknown person. This does not necessarily mean instigating legal proceedings although that will often be the next step; and
- The third party against whom the NPO is sought is involved in the wrongdoing to the extent to have facilitated it and likely to be able to provide the necessary information (e.g. online account information) for the wrongdoer to be pursued.
Then the court would have to decide whether in all the circumstances it was right to make an order. In so deciding it would no doubt consider such matters as the strength of the applicant’s case against the unknown alleged wrongdoer, the relation subsisting between the alleged wrongdoer and the respondent, whether the information could be obtained from another source, and whether the giving of the information would put the respondent to trouble which could not be compensated by the payment of all expenses by the applicant.
What are the costs of applying for a Norwich Pharmacal Order?
You will be required to pay a court fee for issuing a claim and application at Court, in addition to legal costs for preparing the application.
The applicant will normally be required to pay the respondent’s legal cots and the costs of providing the disclosure sought however can seek to recover these costs from the wrongdoer.
Our specialist defamation team can be instructed to advise and assist you in making an application for Norwich Pharmacal relief and can minimise costs where possible.
Provision and use of information under a Norwich Pharmacal Order
If the Court grants the application, the respondent is required to provide information reasonably held and sought by the applicant. The respondent may be able to refuse to provide the information on the basis of privilege against self-incrimination.
In accordance with the general rule under CPR 31, the information disclosed can only be used for the purpose of the proceedings in which it was disclosed (CPR 31.22) and court permission would be required to disclose the information to any third party.
Instruct expert defamation litigation solicitors
We understand how damaging defamatory statements can be to an individual or business and we invite you to contact us so we can assess your claim. We can subsequently provide urgent help, advice or representation to clients whose reputation and privacy is at risk.
To instruct our specialist solicitors and barristers, please call our defamation team on 0207 183 0529 or email: [email protected]