Groucho Club in libel action
Renowned London media club moves to halt publication of claims in "exposé". Index on Censorship and report
27 Aug 09

Renowned London media club moves to halt publication of claims in “exposé”. Index on Censorship and report

London’s famous media haunt, the Groucho Club, is proceeding with a libel action to prevent publication of allegations by Tyrone D Murphy, who describes himself as an independent filmmaker, Index on Censorship and can report.

Kapital Ventures and the Groucho Club London have filed a claim to restrain publication of a libel in a book on the club that Murphy has not yet completed.

In October, a case management conference will take place at the Queen’s Bench division of the UK High Court to decide future progress.

The claimant expects to recover in excess of £15,000, it is stated in the claim form.

The defendant, Tyrone D Murphy, whose company Classic Media Entertainment is currently dormant, intends to represent himself.

“If a writer or journalist want to publish a story that is true he should not be restricted by the threat of costly litigation,” he said.

Murphy, a member of the National Union of Journalists, claims that the content of his forthcoming book regards the management of the club, not individual members. As yet, he said, the allegations have only been put to Groucho management in private correspondence.

The Groucho Club previously applied for an injunction against Murphy in early 2009, but abandoned that action, and now intends to sue for libel in the High Court.

Murphy claims that the book is about 50 per cent complete. He said that he has approached the club for response in regards to specific claims that he wishes to include in his book.

When contacted for comment, an employee at the Groucho Club said that the club does not respond to media requests.

However, Helen Joyce, a partner at Devonshires Solicitors, who are representing the Groucho Club, said in a statement:

“Kapital Ventures Limited and The Groucho Club London Limited are Claimants in an ongoing libel action against Tyrone Murphy and Classic Media Entertainment Limited.

“The action was commenced in February 2009 to restrain the publication of specific statements made by Mr Murphy in written correspondence which were untrue and libellous and which he was at that time threatening to imminently publish on a website.

“In response to an application for an injunction, Mr Murphy provided undertakings in the form of a High Court Order not to publish.

“Since February 2009, Mr Murphy has indicated that he is now writing a book that is not yet finished and not yet ready for publication.

“The Claimants therefore withdrew their application for the injunction. The libel action is ongoing in respect of the specific libellous allegations made by Mr Murphy that the Claimants have good reason to believe will be contained in the proposed book.

“The action does not seek to restrain publication of the book itself. Mr Murphy has to date been ordered to pay costs of £5000 to the Claimants as a result of a failed application brought by him. Mr Murphy has failed to comply with the Court Order and the appropriate enforcement action is being taken.”

The Groucho Club is also claiming for a trade mark infringement and passing off by Murphy, in regards to particular domain names and an email address.

“If the intention of the Groucho Club was to make sure that these allegations do not get into the public arena, it seems that their continued pursuit of the action is likely to have the opposite effect,” Iain Connor, a partner at Pinsent Masons, a legal firm which runs the online advice service, commented.

“Obviously, putting all that evidence in front of a jury will attract a certain amount of publicity when the case is heard,” he said, “and so it seems quite a strange strategy to adopt although the current proceedings will keep the book off the shelves for a little while yet.”

Connor, who specialises in intellectual property and advises on all aspects of High Court litigation and dispute resolution, said that it was a “tricky” area of discussion:

“It’s this idea of freedom of the press versus the right to not be defamed or have your privacy invaded. At the moment, it’s still a very thin tightrope which the press have to tread,” he said.

“While pre-publication defamation ‘prevention’ actions are not uncommon, it is surprising for them to go all the way to full trial.

“Although a claimant is required to prosecute its case following an interim injunction application — no matter what the outcome — it is not normally pursued because the parties usually come to a