24 July 2023

Judge explains why jail term for Sir Frederick Barclay ‘is not the way forward’

24 July 2023

A High Court judge has explained why he is against handing a jail sentence to 88-year-old Sir Frederick Barclay, despite finding the retired businessman in contempt of court.

Sir Jonathan Cohen has been overseeing a fight over money between Sir Frederick and his ex-wife Lady Hiroko Barclay, who is also in her 80s, for more than two years.

In May 2021, Sir Jonathan ordered Sir Frederick to hand Lady Barclay lump sums totalling £100 million after the breakdown of their 34-year marriage.

I don’t want to run the risk of ruining what is Lady Barclay’s best shot by making a committal order

The judge says Sir Frederick has yet to pay.

He also ruled in July 2022 that Sir Frederick was in contempt as a result of failing to pay about £245,000 he owed his ex-wife for legal fees and maintenance, and he could impose a jail term or suspended prison sentence.

The judge has been told repeatedly that a settlement is in the offing, and he said at the latest hearing, in the Family Division of the High Court, on Monday that he did not want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

“I don’t want to run the risk of ruining what is Lady Barclay’s best shot by making a committal order,” he said.

“I am quite satisfied in the circumstances that making a suspended committal order is not the way forward at this point.”

Sir Frederick’s adviser Martin Clarke told the judge that money to settle the dispute has not arrived in a bank account, adding that it was “probably in the sky at the moment”.

The judge said he would reconsider the case on August 4.

He added: “It is a completely unacceptable way to proceed but at the moment I cannot think of a better alternative than adjourning.”

Sir Frederick and his twin brother Sir David were among the UK’s most high-profile businessmen.

Sir David died aged 86 in January 2021.

Their interests included Telegraph Media Group and The Ritz hotel in London.

The family also has links to the Channel Islands and Monaco.

Sir Jonathan has been told that Sir David’s sons Aidan and Howard Barclay now have day-to-day responsibility for “group business”.

In June, news emerged that the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine were likely to be put up for sale after talks between their owners and lenders collapsed.

It came after the Barclay family denied that the business could face administration.

A barrister leading Lady Barclay’s legal team said he understood the judge’s reasoning.

“We understand the risk of Sir Frederick being sent to prison – Lady Barclay gets no money,” said  Stewart Leech KC.

“The best outcome for everybody is for this matter to resolved consensually.

“But there comes a point when one has to ask the question, is this a charade?

“Are we going to come back in another week to be given, yet again, the run-around?”

The settlement figure has not been revealed at hearings.

Sir Jonathan has been told that money Sir Frederick plans to use to finance a settlement is being borrowed.

Mr Leech on Monday referred to an agreement to borrow £10 million.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox