A hate campaign waged by an independent website against a housing group in Sunderland has led to the biggest ever internet defamation payout: £100,000.

The Sunderland Housing Company (now known as Gentoo Group), was targeted by the 'Dads Place' website. Initially anonymous, John Finn of Pallion Housing has now admitted to running the site. Mr Finn has been forced to pay Gentoo chief executive Peter Walls compensation of £100,000.

Mr Finn had previously agreed to pay £19,000 to Gentoo and Gentoo employees.

During the case Walls' lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC said Dads Place was a "seriously defamatory, abusive and scurrilous anonymous website".

He said that Dads Place conducted "a malicious, unpleasant and relentless campaign of libel and harassment.

"Mr Walls was forced to withstand an almost daily barrage of anonymous allegations, threats and abuse and suffered very serious damage to his professional and personal reputation."

In a statement following the case, Walls saud: "No amount of money can compensate my family for the distress these outrageous and false statements have caused us. What was particularly frightening was the fact that we didn't know who was doing this or why.

"There is no doubt that the internet can be a fantastic tool for good but we urgently need legal change to enable victims of internet abuse to have a quicker and more effective route to justice."

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