'Online harassment' over affair leads to landmark court case

A plumber is accused of using Twitter and a string of websites to expose graphic details of his wife's affair with her multimillionaire boss at one of the world's largest financial companies.

Ian Puddick, 41, is accused of harassment after he created a host of blogs, tweets and online videos to expose the affair of his wife, Leena, with insurance firm director Timothy Haynes, a court heard.

Mr Haynes claimed the campaign of harassment had left him needing counselling for the "hurt and distress" that ultimately led to his resignation from his job a year ago. Mr Puddick denied the charges at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The landmark case has renewed interest in the clash of technology and the legal system as information is spread via unregulated social media sites. Mr Haynes told the court: "I think most of the country, thanks to the internet, is aware I had an affair."

He spoke of his "embarrassment and shame" after neighbours received letters containing graphic accounts of the fling, and colleagues and clients were contacted through fake profiles on social networking site LinkedIn.

His affair with Mrs Puddick, which started at a Christmas party in 2002, was exposed after Mr Puddick read a text message on her mobile phone in 2009. However, Mr Puddick's counsel, Michael Wolkind QC, claimed it started much earlier, citing an email sent in 2003 that read: "Where do you want to have sex next? The office, your flat, al fresco or all three? You greedy girl."

Asking Mr Haynes if he was a "dishonest and deceitful man", Mr Wolkind said: "What is it about the website that you are moaning about? You suffered the same degree of harassment that a burglar does when he is caught by the police."

He argued that the real reason Mr Haynes left the firm was because he had come under investigation over fraudulent expense claims whilst having secret trysts with Mrs Puddick. He referred to another email in which he told Mrs Puddick she was "reassuringly expensive". But Mr Haynes, who, the court heard, was investigated by his employer over expenses claims, said he had been alluding to her "taste for expensive champagne", claiming he paid for it out of his own pocket.

Mr Haynes added: "Every medium including Twitter was being utilised to create information about myself and the affair. The whole thing is causing my wife upset and distress. We are very anxious that, with the graphic nature of the website, children do not stumble across it."

His wife, Anya, told how her past two years had been "turned upside down", adding that Mr Puddick's actions had frightened her.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow when Mr Puddick is due to give evidence. The case continues.