A man has been ordered to pay damages of £26,000 to his former employers in the first case in the UK on committing libel by anonymous e-mail. David Frankl also faces legal expenses estimated at up to £100,000.

The High Court in London found this week that Mr Frankl, a former employee of construction company Takenaka (UK) Ltd, sent three e-mails last year to his former bosses from a Hotmail acoount using the false name of Christina Realtor. The e-mails defamed the company's managing director, Brian Corfe.

Although Mr Frankl denied the charges against him, it appears that he was caught after Takenaka obtained court orders to force Microsoft and ISP CompuServe to co-operate in tracing the defamatory e-mails to a laptop used by him at his subsequent place of work.

Mr Justice Alliott ordered Mr Frankl to pay Takenaka £1,000 for libels of hypocrisy, double standards and callousness laid against it. He awarded Mr Corfe the sum of £25,000 for “much graver” libels, including allegations of an affair and of refusing to pay child support for an illegitimate son.

It is thought to be the first case where a UK court has ordered companies to co-operate with the police to trace libellous e-mails in this way.