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Barclay family dispute sees one brother secretly recorded for months, court hears

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THE BILLIONAIRE businessman Sir Frederick Barclay was secretly recorded for several months after his nephew bugged the conservatory at The Ritz Hotel, the High Court has heard.

Sir David Barclay (left) and his twin brother Sir Frederick (PA) (27295183)

The 85-year-old businessman and his daughter Amanda claim that his twin brother Sir David's three sons, Alistair, Aidan and Howard, and Aidan's son Andrew, were parties to the recording of their private conversations over several months.

Sir Frederick and Amanda Barclay are bringing a legal action alleging misuse of private information, breach of confidence and breach of data protection laws against their four relatives, and Philip Peters, who 'holds a board position' in the Barclay group of businesses.

A High Court judge sitting in London was told on Monday that the 'elaborate system of covert recording' only came to light last month when Alistair was filmed 'handling the bug placed in the conservatory at the Ritz'.

Desmond Browne QC, representing Sir Frederick and Amanda Barclay, said: 'We all remember Tolstoy saying "each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way".

'Here, the children of Sir Frederick and Sir David have been at odds concerning the family trusts, and cousin, sadly, has been pitched against cousin.'

He told Mr Justice Warby: 'It is alleged that the defendants have surreptitiously recorded the conversations of Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda, both between themselves and with others, over a period of months.'

Mr Browne said it was not clear how long the recordings were made for, but they could go back as far as September last year.

'The defendants knew the conversations were private and confidential, but they nevertheless recorded them, commissioned transcripts and then conducted discussions about them.'

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He argued there was a strong case that there had been 'illegal activity over a long period of time', which he said had produced recordings of tremendous value to the defendants.

Mr Browne added: 'The matter came to light when the first defendant, initially the only defendant, Alistair Barclay, was filmed late on the night of 13 January handling the bug placed in the conservatory at the Ritz, which was known to be often used by Sir Frederick.

'I gather it was somewhere he could go to smoke a cigar.'

He asked the court to make an interim non-disclosure order, preventing the defendants from disclosing the recordings.

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Heather Rogers QC, representing all five defendants, submitted that there was a lot of information that would have been in the possession of his clients which they have got completely free of the recordings.

She added that her clients had ample opportunity to spread it about before an injunction was granted, but there was no evidence of dissemination.

Ms Rogers argued that there was therefore no need to make an interim non-disclosure order.

Giving a short ruling dismissing the application for a non-disclosure order, Mr Justice Warby said the claim stemmed from the falling-out between elements of the families of Sir Fredrick and Sir David Barclay.

He said that substantial parts of the business enterprises the twins had built up - which include interests in the Ritz and the publisher of the Daily Telegraph - are now owned by trusts, beneficiaries of which include Amanda, Alistair, Aidan and Howard Barclay.

The judge added that the vexed litigation arose over the governance and direction of the group businesses.

He said the information Sir Frederick and Amanda Barclay were seeking to protect included discussions about potential acquisitions and disposals of business assets, and personal financial matters including matters relating to the family trusts.

Mr Justice Warby declined to make the order sought, ruling that there was 'no intention and no evidence of any intention' to disclose the recordings.

The judge made clear that, despite all previous hearings being conducted in private, the hearing on Monday and his ruling were public.

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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