Northern Ireland

Antrim woman to sue US sex website over photographs

High Court
Image caption The High Court granted the woman permission to sue the site

A County Antrim woman whose private photos appeared on a website for prostitutes has received legal permission to sue its US operators.

A barrister for the woman, who cannot be identified, lodged a writ claiming damages for the misuse of photos taken by an ex-partner.

The case is very unusual in that the US registered company operates in Belize, outside the UK court's jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the woman's lawyers got permission to issue the writ.

The woman is claiming that the company is guilty of libel and malicious falsehood against her.

Her solicitor, Hilary Carmichael, said: "She is saying that she never consented to the publication of her photographs. She contacted the website whenever she realised that her photographs were on it and requested that the material be removed.

"But they still remained on the website. On the website, the plaintiff is depicted as a prostitute and/or a sex worker and we are saying that the defendant has profited as a result of the publication to which our client did not give consent."

The photographs had been taken by an ex-partner during the time that they were dating. The woman never consented to the pictures being seen by anyone other than her partner.

"They were posted maliciously by her ex-partner. The plaintiff reported the incident to the police who informed her there was not much they could do," said Ms Carmichael.

Injunction

She said the pictures had caused her client "substantial distress" and the fact that the company had ignored her request to take down the pictures had added to her pain.

"We are saying that there is a very good arguable case," she said.

"In the event that the photographs are not removed, now that the writ has been served, we reserve the right to proceed in the next couple of days to seek an injunction forcing the defendant to make sure the photographs are removed and forcing an obligation on the defendant to start monitoring this type of site."

The woman's barrister Peter Girvan said his client was left feeling distraught at being wrongly associated with the vice trade.

According to the court papers, four pictures of the woman appeared on the site.

The writ also disclosed that a campaign of harassment which led to her leaving her home town and moving into a refuge may be linked to the unauthorised publication.

Mr Girvan is now set to issue injunction proceedings in a bid to have the photos taken down. He has also secured an order to protect the anonymity of his client and any use of the pictures.

As part of a wider lawsuit, the woman is seeking damages for the misuse of private information and being wrongly depicted as a prostitute.

Her case has been advanced by the High Court granting leave to serve proceedings out of jurisdiction on a defendant with a listed address in New York.