Trader's fury at drug and gang war claims

One of the most unusual libel actions for some time is heading for the High Court with lawyers for the plaintiffs saying it could be heard later this year.

The action, launched by market and retail company Solitaire (Liverpool), of London W2, against Delyn Borough Council, based in Flint, Clwyd, is over an anonymous letter left in a public file of planning documents. The company claims the letter indicates it was involved in drug dealing and gang warfare among other things.

Clothing retailer Solitaire leases a market in Llanerchymor, North Wales, where it has liquor and clothing stalls, and has applied to the council to develop the premises with site owner SCEP Trading.

But it claims that on 2 November 1994 and afterwards the council libelled the company by including a letter in the file of documents relating to its planning application which was open to inspection by members of the public. It says inclusion of the letter, authorship of which has been denied by the person said to have signed it, amounts to publication in the eyes of libel law.

Solitaire claims the letter gives the impression that the company used the premises in question for drug dealing and as a centre from which to supply drugs throughout North Wales, or knowingly allowed the premises to be used for such activities.

It says the letter also suggests the company conducted violent gang warfare from the premises including shootings and stabbings which led to prosecutions. It suggests that the company had bribed police officers to turn a blind eye to the alleged activities.

The company is claiming aggravated damages on the grounds that the council allowed the letter to be included in the file of documents which was available to the public without first making any inquiries to check the truth of the allegations.

The company says it had no idea of the letter's existence.

The writ says Delyn Borough Council has failed and refused to apologise for the publication of the words or to offer any sort of redress.

Solitaire is represented by Clintons of London.