Computer Whizz Backs Sorrell's Case in Libel Trial

21 March 2007

LONDON: It was "relatively unlikely" that a laptop belonging to the former WPP Italia executives, Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli, had been tampered with by a third party, forensic computer expert Peter Sommer told the London High Court on Tuesday.

In the libel and breach of privacy case brought against the two men by WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell, the defence claimed that an unknown employee of FullSix - a company run by the two defendants - had without their knowledge emailed blogs and a "vicious Jpeg image" of Sorrell and WPP executive Daniela Weber, labelling them "the mad dwarf and the nympho schizo".

Sommer, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said he had concluded the defendants were responsible for the succession of blogs, emails and offensive attachments "by a series of inferences".

None of the techniques required [to conceal authorship of the emails] were "geek" skills. Although [the techniques] might sound complicated, in practice the only skill was learning that they existed and could be used.

Sommer said he had already formed this view prior to a later discovery on Tinelli's computer of sections of the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents.

This contained detailed instructions, which matched very closely the methods used to conceal publication of the blogs and emails in the case.

Benatti and Tinelli both deny libel and breach of privacy. They do not seek to justify the libels and their defence rests on denial that they were responsible for disseminating the libels or the privacy-infringing emails.

Counsel for the two men will open the defence case today (Wednesday).

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff