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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Friends Reunited user pays damages
Friends Reunited Website
The website offers the chance to chat about school
A former teacher has won a pay-out over libellous remarks made in a "virtual conversation".

Jim Murray, 68, successfully sued a former pupil for libel over comments made on the internet.

He began court action against Jonathan Spencer, who has been ordered to pay 1,250 damages and 150 costs, after reading insults about himself on the Friends Reunited website.

The popular but controversial site aims to bring former classmates back together and give them a worldwide forum to discuss their school days.

Apology offered

Mr Spencer had posted messages claiming Mr Murray had been sacked after "making rude remarks about girls" and "strangling" a pupil.

Friends Reunited removed the comments after Mr Murray revealed he had retired from his job and the claims were untrue.

Mr Murray described the award as "peanuts".

The former languages teacher said: "The issue is the evil of this website.


Mr Spencer has opened a can of worms

Jim Murray

"They are effectively putting a dagger in people's hands.

"When challenged they simply say they have removed the dagger - the wound is still there.

"This has been a fight for my good name against a giant like Friends Reunited.

"If the judge had awarded me 5,000 the judiciary would have thought that was opening the floodgates to this sort of case.

Cash rejected

"So instead I was given derisory damages and that way people will be put off by the cost and trouble they have to go to to clear their name.

"Mr Spencer has opened a can of worms.

"He has brought disgrace on himself, his family and his school.

"I am pressing his education authority to do something about him."

Mr Murray represented himself in the libel action at Lincoln County Court.

He had already rejected cash offers of 400 and later 1,000, and a written apology from Mr Spencer.

Mr Murray, who taught at Ridgewood Comprehensive, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, until 1983, had learned about his ex-pupil's comments from friends.

Difficult case

Mr Spencer - now himself a teacher at a school in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear - admitted the insults were libellous but claimed damages should be nominal.

He said Friends Reunited had only carried them for a day and they would have been seen by very few people.

But District Judge Andrew Maw said Mr Murray had a right to feel aggrieved.

The judge said the proceedings were "difficult and novel" and that no-one had been able to find any relevant cases preceding it.


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See also:

22 Feb 02 | Newsmakers
12 Nov 01 | UK Education
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