Website ban for academic bailed on harassment charges

Ex-Kingston lecturer faces six months’ jail if found guilty. Melanie Newman reports

October 23, 2009

A criminal court has banned an academic from adding material to a website criticising Kingston University’s vice-chancellor.

Kingston Magistrates’ Court imposed the ban on Howard Fredrics as a condition of bail after he was charged with harassing vice-chancellor Sir Peter Scott.

Dr Fredrics was dismissed from his job as a music lecturer at the university in 2006 and has been involved in an employment dispute with the university ever since. He faces up to six months in jail if found guilty.

The harassment charge brought against Dr Fredrics relates to his website, www.sirpeterscott.com, on which he regularly posts songs, performances and other material critical of Sir Peter and the university.

The magistrate said that since July 2007, when the website was set up, Dr Fredrics had “pursued a course of behaviour which amounted to harassment” of Sir Peter. He was also charged with breach of the Public Order Act 1986 relating to a chance meeting with Sir Peter in Kingston in summer 2009. The charge sheet says the academic used “threatening words or behaviour” to “cause harassment alarm or distress”.

The academic was given bail on condition that he did not contact the vice-chancellor by any means or add further material to his website.

In 2008, Dr Fredrics published on the website an audio recording of a psychology lecturer at Kingston telling students to give the university good scores in the National Student Survey because “no one will employ you if they think your degree is shit”.

Sir Peter later complained to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) that Dr Fredrics was breaching his trademark by using the site.

But in May 2009, WIPO ruled that Dr Fredrics had the right to continue using the domain name, saying that Sir Peter had not acquired sufficient goodwill to establish the name as a trademark, and that Dr Fredrics had not commercially exploited it.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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