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Private Eye claims Barclays are first to sue over spoof

Satirical magazine issues firm rebuttal to Telegraph owners.

Private Eye is on the receiving end of a legal action from the Barclay brothers in what it claims is the first instance ever of it being sued over a spoof article which appeared in its joke pages.

The spoof Daily Telegraph front page was headed "Expenses Scandal Day 94" and irreverently suggested that the Telegraph Media Group-owning twins derive tax benefits from living on the Channel Island of Brilleau.

Private Eye reports this week that the postmistress on the Channel Island of Sark has also received a solicitors' letter after pinning up the spoof front page on her noticeboard.

According to Private Eye, the Barclays' solicitors asked that the postmistress instead display a statement saying that the Barclays are "not tax dodgers. They have been non resident and non-domiciled from the UK for over 20 years but have nevertheless complied with their UK tax obligations and paid personal tax during those years...They do not exercise huge influence over Telegraph readers, as stated in the article..."

Private Eye reports that it has written a robust letter back to the Barclays' solicitors pointing out that the piece is a spoof.

It states: "Even to those unfamiliar with Private Eye there are a number of features of the article, on the page on which it appears, and on those surrounding it, that would suggest to such readers that the articles and material on these pages are not genuine.

"For example (page 20) David Cameron and Nick Clegg are of course prime minister and deputy prime minister, but it is not credible that any reader would so unworldly, or gullible, to think that they were also headmaster and deputy headmaster of an educational institution called 'The New Coalition Academy'."

The letter states: "The law of libel recognises that statements made in jest are not actionable."

In 2005 the Barclay brothers sued the Times in the French courts over a series of articles about their business interests.

Dominic Ponsford writes for


Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette