London swingers' club boss loses £820,000 libel claim

A man who claimed his once-thriving swinger’s club was ruined by articles in the Kilburn Times linking it to alleged prostitution has failed in a £820,000 libel claim against the paper.

Dutchman Kelvin Ifedha claimed that he used to make up to £3,000 a night at Soho Beach Club in Kilburn High Road, London, before articles in the Kilburn Times in 2009 and 2010 claimed the local council had forced its closure over fears it was being used as a brothel.

He sued the newspaper’s publisher, Archant Regional Ltd, claiming damages of £820,000 and alleging that the paper wrongly claimed he was involved in prostitution, which is illegal, and that his business had closed down when it had not.

The 5,000 clients and members he had built up over the previous ten years stopped going to his events after reading the allegations, as a result of which he went from earning at least £1,000 per night to being unable to earn anything from his business, he said.

Ifedha’s claim for damages included £420,000 for loss of earnings, £200,000 for injury to feelings and exemplary damages of £200,000.

The claim was struck out by a High Court Master, who described the action as being “worth no more than a nominal amount if anything at all”.

Ifedha appealed against that decision – but today it was upheld by Mr Justice Tugendhat, who said: “The claim for damages bears no relation whatever either to the law or to reality.”

The judge said that in a press release issued in February 2009, Camden Council announced that the Soho Beach Club’s licence had been revoked after police “found evidence of drugs taking and prostitution on the premises” and that the licence holder had failed in an appeal against that decision.

Had the words used by the newspaper been entirely without foundation, and had they borne the meaning that Ifedha was illegally operating a brothel, then he would have been entitled to substantial damages – although they would have been only “a fraction of the sums claimed”.

But he took the same view as the Master, he said, adding: “It is not credible that clients or members would cease to visit the venue in question as a result of the words complained of in the issues of the Kilburn Times.

‘The calculations of losses, even if that were not the case, are entirely imaginary.”

The claim had “no real prospect of success” and was “wholly without merit”, he added.

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