Belfast Telegraph

Man's libel win over kill bid claim on Facebook by ex-wife

By Jan Colley

A businessman has won a libel case over his ex-wife's Facebook claim that he tried to kill her - but does not want any damages.

Ronald Stocker said that the statements posted by former wife Nicola in a December 2012 exchange with his new partner Deborah Bligh wrongly painted him as a "dangerous and thoroughly disreputable" man.

Ruling that 65-year-old Mr Stocker had a "meritorious" claim, Mr Justice Mitting said the libel was not trivial and assessed the appropriate compensation at £5,000.

But, he added, he was making no award of damages as Mr Stocker "to his credit" had decided he did not want one.

Mrs Stocker (48), of Longwick, Buckinghamshire, who denied libel and said what she posted was substantially true, gave an undertaking not to repeat the defamatory words.

She faces a costs bill of about £200,000 and must make an interim payment of £140,000 within 28 days unless she pursues an appeal.

During the trial in London, Mr Stocker, of Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, said the Facebook posts suggested he tried to kill Mrs Stocker nearly 10 years earlier by strangling her and had also threatened her.

It also claimed that he breached a non-molestation order and been arrested countless times. The allegations were published to 21 individuals who had authorised access to the page and were also visible to 110 of Ms Bligh's 'friends' and to their Facebook 'friends'.

The judge said that both were generally truthful witnesses and had much to commend them, but they brought out the worst in each other.

"Under the stress of a failing marriage, each behaved towards the other in a manner which does no credit to either of them," he added.

He said that the hearing was necessary to "lance the boil" of their grievances.

The judge said that he was satisfied that Mr Stocker and Ms Bligh did not set out to entrap Mrs Stocker.

A comment on Facebook was the same as a comment posted on an office noticeboard. Mrs Stocker had no right to assume it was private and was liable for the consequences if it was not.

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