'Victory for free speech' in blog 'harassment' case

A plumber accused of harassing his wiife’s millionaire lover by tweeting and blogging claims about the affair has hailed a “victory for free speech and the small man” after being cleared of the charges.

In a case that media lawyers said would help define the limits of freedom of expression online, a court heard how Ian Puddick, 41, tweeted, blogged and posted videos online after being enraged by his spouse’s 10-year relationship with City director Timothy Haynes.

Puddick said he would concentrate on getting his married life on track after District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe dismissed harassment charges at the end of the three-day trial at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

‘For the last 12 months this has taken over my life,’said Puddick. ‘Purely and simply there has been an abuse of power.

“It this can happen to me it can happen to anyone.

“It is absolutely a victory for free speech and the small man. I’m a plumber and drive around in a Transit.”

Haynes, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, admitted he had been deceitful but said Puddick should have taken up his anger with him alone.

Puddick set up a string of websites and confronted Haynes after finding out about the affair by reading a text message on his wife’s phone.

Puddick’s defence team claimed police spent £1m investigating the allegations against him, and the court heard how counter-terrorism officers helped with the investigation after the incident was reported to police.

If found guilty the case would have had implications in the going battle to regulate what is disseminated through websites and social networking sites such as Twitter.

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