Belfast Telegraph

Woman wins £28k payout over snaps posted on sex site

BY ALAN ERWIN

A Northern Ireland woman who took legal action after private photos appeared on a website for prostitutes was first investigated by social services called in by the police.

The mother-of-one has been awarded £28,000 in damages by the High Court from the American website that carried the pictures.

The award was made to the woman for her ordeal in being falsely portrayed as advertising sex for sale.

She sued the United States-based operators of the Adultwork site after being alerted by a friend that her pictures had appeared on it in 2011.

Alongside photographs "of a highly personal and sexual nature", the court heard information was posted on a range of sexual services and prices.

The woman, who cannot be identified, has never been involved in prostitution. The photos were taken either by a former partner or herself and sent to others in private. No consent was given for their publication.

Although inaccurate contact details were included and she received no requests for sex, the discovery was said to have left her distraught. By the end of September 2011 the posting had been viewed more than 17,000 times.

It also remained on display for a further year-and-a-half despite attempts to have it removed.

In an effort to get the material taken off the site the woman contacted police. They were unable to assist, but instead notified social services because of her young child. An investigation was carried out before social services concluded she had no involvement in the sex trade. She sought damages against AW Systems Ltd for libel, harassment and misuse of private information. Judgment was made in her favour after the defendant failed to enter an appearance.

Dealing yesterday with the level of damages to be awarded, Master McCorry held that falsely portraying a young woman as a prostitute amounted to "oppressive and unacceptable behaviour".

He said: "In this case the malicious conduct was by the unidentified persons who posted the information on the website, with the defendant's conduct being failure to remove it for a period of one and a half years."

The Master ruled that the woman was entitled to £15,000 for defamation and harassment, with a further £10,000 in aggravated damages. The award was increased again by £3,000 for the misuse of private information.

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