British billionaire ordered to pay €21k to French playwright after losing case

Secretive British billionaire David Barclay was ordered to pay damages of €21,000 to a French playwright on Tuesday after a court in northern France rejected his attempt to sue for defamation.

British billionaire ordered to pay €21k to French playwright after losing case
David Barclay, left, with his twin brother. Photo: AFP

Barclay, who with his twin brother Frederick owns The Daily Telegraph and the Ritz Hotel, had filed suit against Hedi Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre over a play that won critical reviews in Paris earlier this year. 

Entitled Les Deux Freres et les Lions (The Two Brothers and the Lions), it does not mention the brothers directly, but has clear parallels with the pair who were born into a modest Scottish family and went on to build a vast property and media empire.

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Barclay had sought €100,000 euros in damages for libel and violation of privacy and had sought to have the work – which played at a small Paris theatre until March 31 – banned. 

“In the text, there are no facts revealed that were unknown, egregious, intimate or even imaginary and pejorative which are likely to constitute a  particularly serious intrusion into the (plaintiff's) life,” the judges wrote. 

The court ordered the 85-year-old to pay €6,000 in moral damages to the writer, as well as €5,000 to each of the three theatre companies involved in producing the play for infringing their right to show the work. 

He was also ordered to pay €35,000 in legal costs. 

“This is a remarkable ruling,” Clermont-Tonnerre's lawyer Olivier Morice told AFP.

“In severely penalising David Barclay to pay damages and interest, the court has recalled the major principles for safeguarding creative freedom,” he said. 

But Barclay's lawyer Christophe Bigot said the British tycoon, who with his brother has an estimated fortune of £8 billion (€9.3 billion), would likely appeal the ruling. 

In its publicity blurb, the 150-seat Theatre de Poche describes the play being about: “The irresistible rise of two Scottish immigrants.

“This tale is about twins from a poor background who came to have one of the biggest fortunes of Great Britain by the end of the 20th century.”

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Swiss parliament approves same-sex marriage

Switzerland's parliament approved a bill Friday allowing same-sex couples to marry, finally bringing the small Alpine nation into line with much of Europe on gay rights.

Swiss parliament approves same-sex marriage
Swiss MPs approved a bill legalising gay marriage. Photo by AFP

But the Swiss themselves will have the final say on the matter as theChristian, ultra-conservative Federal Democratic Union party has announced that it will ask for the legislation to be put to a referendum.

Switzerland is one of few European countries where same-sex marriage is not legal. 

The country allows same-sex couples to enter into “registered partnerships”, but this does not provide the same rights as marriage, including for obtaining citizenship and the joint adoption of children.

The two chambers of parliament have now approved the bill after multiple rounds of debate since 2013.
The wording of the bill allows gays and lesbians to marry and for lesbians to access sperm donations.

READ MORE: Swiss Protestant church supports gay marriage

“This is a historic victory for the rights of the LGBTI* Community,” Amnesty Switzerland wrote in a tweet.

The Rainbow Families association, set up in 2010 to defend the interests of gay parents in Switzerland, said it was preparing for the issue to be put to a popular vote.

“If the opponents launch a referendum, we're ready,” said Matthias Erhardt, deputy president of the national committee especially set up on “marriage for all”.

“We have 82 percent of the population behind us and, thanks to the mobilisation of the LBGT community, our partner organisations and the political parties who support us, we will be able to further increase acceptance of LGBT people in society,” he said.