Sir Frederick Barclay was secretly recorded for several months, after the conservatory of The Ritz hotel was bugged, the High Court has heard.
The 85-year-old businessman and his daughter Amanda claim 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 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: “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.”
“The defendants knew the conversations were private and confidential, but they nevertheless recorded them, commissioned transcripts and then conducted discussions about them.”
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.
Heather Rogers QC, representing all five defendants, submitted that there was “a lot of information that would have been in the possession of my 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.
Mr Justice Warby declined to make the order, ruling that “there was no intention and no evidence of any intention” to disclose the recordings.