Sunderland housing company Gentoo has triumphed in the High Court against a magistrate who posted ‘seriously defamatory’ material on a website.

Stephen Hanratty, who had opposed plans by Gentoo to regenerate the housing estate where he lived in Sunderland, admitted at the High Court on Tuesday his involvement in the Dadsplace website.

A previous court case in April last year awarded £100,000 to Gentoo from John Finn, the owner of rival company Pallion Housing and the founder of the website. The payment was the biggest internet libel damages award.

Hanratty has now agreed to pay £20,000 in damages to Gentoo.

Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers who acted for Gentoo said: ‘The Gentoo Group and Peter Walls, its Chief Executive, brought this action against Mr Stephen Hanratty to establish his involvement in the publication of seriously defamatory and other unlawful material on the Dadsplace website between August 2004 and July 2006.

‘In particular, they set out to establish that Mr Stephen Hanratty was in fact a key member of the Dadsplace team using a number of aliases, most importantly The Scurra. Mr Hanratty has now admitted all of these allegations.

‘He accepts that he was involved in Dadsplace and was The Scurra. He apologises to Peter Walls and Gentoo Group for what he did. It is a matter of greatest regret that it has taken several years for Mr Hanratty to face up to his responsibility.

‘He has agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages to Peter Walls and Gentoo Group Limited and submit to judgment and to give an undertaking not to repeat the words complained of or to further harass Mr Walls or publish anonymous statements.

‘In those circumstances, Gentoo Group Limited and Peter Walls agree not to pursue any further action against Mr Hanratty.’