Internet bullying suit filed

| 27/11/2011

_DEW4857-web.jpg(CNS): In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the Cayman Islands, a law suit has been filed in the Grand Court in relation to accusations of internet bullying. Local community activist and former political candidate Sandra Catron has filed a suit against a former boyfriend and two women for web-based harassment as a result of the failure of the local authorities to protect her from the bullying, which she fears may escalate. In the suit Catron said that Jose Venner and the other defendants undertook “a systematic defamatory attack” on her character and “committed both libel and slander” against her on internet sites including Facebook. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Catron said the defendants made false police reports about her and accusations that were completely unfounded as they bullied and harassed her on the internet. She is claiming $100,000 in damages.

She approached the authorities but was told by the police that there was not much that they could do to prevent the harassment. She said that she felt her only option was to try and put an end to the problem via a civil suit.

The local activist told CNS that she had genuine concerns that the online harassment could go further. Since the police say they cannot do anything, by filing a suit Catron said she may prevent what she fears is a dangerous escalation and put an end to the cyber-attack, which has gone on for several months.

Although Catron tried to put an amicable end to the harassment, her efforts were met, she said in the claim, by further attacks by all three defendants.  Catron said she continues to pursue her complaints with the police and has complained to the employers of the people she said are bullying her, as well as filing complaints to the immigration department, but the bullying has continued.

“Several cease and desists emails were sent directly to all three defendants,” Catron stated, adding that  Venner has been warned on at least three occasions via email and other times verbally to remove his defamatory comments but Catron said he hasn’t done so and has added further postings.

In the statement of claim Catron said the man with whom she had a relationship, his current girlfriend and his mother have used both Facebook and other sites to attack her and ruined her reputation both in the Cayman Islands and abroad to satisfy “a personal vendetta".

“Throughout the entire relationship Mr Venner was extremely dishonest and apparently only sought to use me for financial gain and obtaining job security here in the Cayman Islands,” Catron said in the statement of claim. “I have email evidence in Mr Venner's own words to support this statement. It appears that both he and Ms Keisha Christian concocted a scheme for him to be able to use me to find a new job etc. and then return to her once my usefulness to him expired,” Catron stated.

The issue of online bullying, and in particular on Facebook, has reached the courts in other jurisdictions and there have been a number of criminal cases in the US where people have been charged with harassment. In the UK, under the new cyber security strategy, the police and courts are being encouraged to make more use of existing "cyber sanctions" to restrict access for online bullies.

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