Facebook comment is clearly relevant – judge

editorial image

AN Italian lawyer’s “intemperate and vituperative” posting on Facebook can be included in legal action against him for unbuilt holiday homes, the High Court ruled yesterday.

Gabriele Giambrone claimed comments on the social media site were confidential and should be kept out of proceedings by 13 Northern Ireland buyers seeking to recover £1 million worth of deposits.

But Mr Justice Horner held that the relevant remarks should go before the judge who will decide whether to grant a full injunction on any disposal of assets.

He said: “I consider that publication, even if it was intended to be private, is not private any longer. The horse has well and truly bolted.”

Last month, investors secured judgment against Mr Giambrone and his firm, Giambrone & Law, over proposed apartments in Calabria in southern Italy.

Despite putting down 50 per cent deposits on the El Caribe development, building work was never carried out on the site.

It was alleged that the defendants breached their professional duty to protect the deposits.

The action also claimed Mr Giambrone operated under a conflict of interest, did not properly advise the investors and released their money to an agent without authority.

Liability was conceded on the eve of trial, leaving the 13 investors facing a new fight to enforce the outcome and recoup their deposits.

Although a temporary injunction was secured against the defendant and insurers to stop any dissipation of funds, a final determination of that issue is still to be made.

Ahead of that hearing some of the investors and their solicitor were able to access Mr Giambrone’s Facebook account and discover a posting allegedly related to the case.

The court heard it stated: “They thought they knocked me down, now they will see the full scale of my reaction.

“F*** them, just f*** them. They will be left with nothing.”

Mr Giambrone attempted to stop the posting being used in the case, arguing that it was private.

Mr Justice Horner pointed out: “Looking at the terms and conditions of Facebook, anyone who makes any posting on it does so at their own peril.”

Even if it was only intended to be seen by friends on the site, there is no restriction on them further disclosing the comments, the judge added.

He held that once the document was seen by the plaintiffs, it ceased to be confidential.

“The position is that Mr Giambrone, having made the decision to publish the comments on Facebook and having taken the risk that publication on Facebook entails, has now to face the consequences,” Mr Justice Horner said.

“That document is in the public domain, it’s clearly relevant, it’s necessary for fairly disposing of the issues and it’s in the interests of justice that the document should be made available.”

Following his ruling the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Simon Chambers, confirmed that he would also be seeking to use the posting on separate proceedings brought against Mr Giambrone by another 61 investors from Northern Ireland over a separate uncompleted development in Calabria.