Peter Hook's Hacienda 'expose' is allegedly due out in October this year, although his lawyers are apparently not 100% happy quite yet:
L I B E L R E P O R T
HACIENDA: HOW NOT TO RUN A CLUB
By Peter Hook with Claude Flowers
This is the account by Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order of his involvement in and subsidising of the Hacienda Club in Manchester. As there is a considerable amount of drug-taking and involvement of gangs with resulting violence and a fair degree of professional incompetence in the running of the club, there are obviously potential defamation issues. What one has to consider with defamation is whether the tendency of the words would make third parties think the worse of a person written about as a result of reading them. One working test is whether the man in the street in the complainant's position would like that said about them? One should ask that question separately before going on to consider whether it can be justified or whether it is fair comment or whether there is no likelihood at all of the person in question complaining. If one blurs the two exercises, one may end up simply by making an assumption that a person will not complain only to find that the assumption is erroneous. If therefore it is said of X that they were taking illegal drugs, that is defamatory. The best way of approaching it is to ask oneself how would one deal with a complaint from X ie can one prove that what was said was true and also what are the probabilities of X complaining ie was he a notorious drug-taker? One should bear in mind that the burden of proving the truth a defamatory allegation by admissible evidence rests upon the author and publishers. One also wants to bear in mind the fact that these events all occurred some time ago with the action in the book ending about 1997. Furthermore, it might prove difficult to obtain evidence from third parties on such issues particularly when they happened some time ago. It is better therefore to err on the side of caution. The author is entitled to rely on the defence of fair comment provided that what he writes is a matter of comment rather than an allegation of fact and that the comment is one which a person could honestly hold and which is based on facts which are substantially true (the burden of proving which rests upon the author). It seems to me that the comments made in this book are on occasions quite strongly worded but are none the worse for that and the law clearly accepts that comment can be forthrightly expressed. Actions for libel cannot be brought on behalf of those who are no longer alive. I have been supplied with a list of those who are no longer alive. Although issues of drug taking can engage the law of privacy, it seems to me that if there are grounds for complaint by any third party about what is written, it would be on the grounds of libel and the author would need to be able to prove that what is said is true. The drug-taking described occurred in a public place and for the most part is not concerned with details of addiction which could engage the law of privacy. There do not appear to be copyright issues, although the accountants would have copyright in the published accounts but these relate to many years ago, they would presumably be publically available documents and although they are technically literary works, they have no significant literary value. I suggest therefore that one can take a realistic view of the rights in those reports. There are detailed accounts and lists of Hacienda events. It should be checked that there is no-one who can claim that they have copyright in the compilation or if they do, permission should be obtained from them. Again, I would have thought that a complaint based in copyright would be pretty unlikely.
2 Detailed comments
17 Is it thought that XXXX's sense of humour will extend to this? It might be marginally safer to say "unkindly known…".
32 Though they are not named and it was a long time ago, it might be sensible to change "we got ripped off" to something like "ironically this was also the first time we learnt how outrageous lawyers' bills could be".
33 Check that this story about XXXXX XXXXXXX playing the German national anthem when set against the XXXX story can be proved, but I do not think it should cause a problem. Check also that XXXX imagery was used and it might be sensible to say "XXXXX did not rise to the bait and always used to drive up…".
34 As a general point, saying that illegal drugs were consumed in clubs is potentially defamatory of those running the clubs but this was a long time ago and I imagine it's a bit like saying that people were drinking beer in the pub. Presumably, the author could testify to these things of his own knowledge and I would have thought any complaint is extremely unlikely, but one does need to bear in mind that allegations relating to drugs involve allegations of breaking the criminal law. I imagine that most people would not mind in the least about their misspent youth being described, but some may have become extremely respectable and a little sensitive on the subject. Again I would not have thought there is a problem but it needs to be borne in mind.
39 It appears to be defamatory of XXX XXXXX to suggest that his designs did not meet the fire regulations and it may be sensible to tone this down. There are a number of digs at XXXXX. Check that this can be proved. Bear in mind that he might have some different explanation or say that he was not asked to consider fire regulations or that it was someone else's fault.
45 The implication is that XXXXXXX was responsible for the cards being late. Check that this can be proved. It is not, I would concede, the most serious of allegations particularly when it all happened so long ago, but these are points that are best checked at this stage.
50 Check that XXXXX did use a lot of Nazi stuff. It looks as if it is very much a matter of record.
53 Purely by way of example, I am assuming that when material such as this is set out in the appendix, there is no-one who would come forward and claim that it was their copyright, but check in relation to this and the other matters set out in the other appendices eg the quote from the newsletter (p. 61).
65 Suggesting that XXXXX stole material from the club is defamatory of them. Normally the XXXXX in question are not named nor are identifying features given which would enable people to know who they were, so there should be no problem. It should be borne in mind that it could be very difficult to proof these matters after this distance in time. Could one not remove XXXX's name and the name of the group which would might enable him to be identified and that way one keeps the story while reducing the risk of a complaint. 66 It is defamatory of XX, who is presumably identifiable, to say that he was this incompetent. Might there be something to be said for changing the initials but in doing so it is important to ensure that one does not inadvertently use the initials of someone who could claim that they were identified on the basis that they have been working for the author at the time?
74 Might not MXXX XXXXX object to this? I appreciate the author says he is great friends with XX, but on the other hand he does call him an obnoxious bastard! He knows XX whereas I do not. From a legal point of view, it is defamatory to repeat a story that he breakfasted on speed when it is admitted that it is not in fact true, or at any rate, that XX denies it. He might laugh this off but what if he does not? Did he regularly take speed? I appreciate this may seem a little pompous and unworldly to the author, but I am seeing people from the point of view of them being potential
complainants and I know nothing about their background. What I can tell the author is that if they do complain and do not find the joke funny, we have a distinct problem.
75 We also have a problem potentially with XXXX being called a smack head. Might not she and XXXX also complain about the sexual reference. Again at the risk of sounding pompous, that is a private matter which XXXX could object to and might also claim it was defamatory. XXXX might also say that although she mentioned this to the author in conversation, she would not expect to see it in a book.
76 Check that the smashing to pieces anecdote concerning XXXX can be proved – not the most serious of matters. The road crew would not seem to be easily identifiable but might not XXXXXXXXX XXXXX complain about the shag in the bus reference – something which might be a little difficult to prove if she did complain?
91 I am taking it that all these references to XXX are to XXX XXXXXX who is no longer alive. XXXXXXX now takes herself quite seriously. It seems to be accepted that this story could not be verified. Would XXXX be able to prove that at least in part? Was XXXXXXX regularly paralytic at the time? How could be proved that she was drunk on this occasion?
96 I would suggest removing "which probably means they've ripped us off to shit". Could one not just say "but very expensive"? Check that it can be proved about it "regularly falling down like a guillotine".
105 Check about the drill story.
125 The allegation of fraud is obviously defamatory, but it seems that this is aimed only at XXXX XXXXXX and he is no longer alive. Please check that that is correct and that it is not being suggested that anyone else was involved.
126 I would be inclined to remove "the only one he couldn't get hold of was Will O' the Wisp himself, XXXX XXXXXXX" as that suggests that he was involved in the alleged tax fraud. Is the reference to "thanks XXXXX" a reference to the XXXXXXXXXX as that is a somewhat gratuitous aside suggesting that he was responsible for the fine? I fear that would be difficult to prove and that it is probably better to lose that comment.
140 The implication here seems to be that XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX was releasing tapes which did not belong to him for his own profit and without authority which would be defamatory. Again I suspect it might be difficult to prove. Subject to the author's comment, it might be sensible to remove the phrase "very mysterious XXXXXXX" which I hope would remove the implication that it was him who sold the tapes without authority, but perhaps I can check in the light of the author's comments. (3 lines from the bottom) could we change "sacked" to "fell out with"?
155 It seems to me that XXXXXXX and XXXX are scarcely identifiable. What is said about XXXX seems pretty mild, but check. Check that XXXX will not complainabout this account of his tripping. (3 lines from the bottom) could we change "sacked" to "fell out with"?
155 It seems to me that XXXXXXX and XXXX are scarcely identifiable. What is said about XXXX seems pretty mild, but check. Check that XXXX will not complain about this account of his tripping.
156 It seems to me that there could well be problems from the XXXXXXX who are described as a complete pain in the arse which is a comment, but allegations that they were pissed the whole time and that they took tons of drugs and behaved like a bunch of animals wrecking the room are allegations of fact which would have to be proved. I would suggest toning the passage down.
157 The suggestion seems to be that XXXX XXX XXXX who presumably is identifiable, was dealing some drugs. That is defamatory and how would that be proved?
160 XXXXXX coke – is the author satisfied he can prove this and/or that XXXXXX would not complain?
163 Would the manager be identifiable?
168 Would XXXX be identifiable? If so, is the author confident he could prove this?
170 How can it be proved that XXXXX was spiking people's drinks?
173 XXXX, I take it, is XXXXXX?
177 Would the sale of poppers be illegal? (XXXXXXX) and likewise her producing speed/Pink Champagne (p. 178). How is that proved?
180 Would XXX complain about the allegation of taking ecstasy – again not the most serious allegation but still nevertheless an illegal drug?
222 It is probably dangerous to suggest that XXXXX took home drugs as part of his payment.
235 Check that it can be established that XXXX XXXXXXX did glorify the use of drugs.
240 How is it proved that XXXX XXXXXXX had underworld links? The only living XXXXXX seems to be XXXXXXX. Check that he had a large number of such convictions – presumably a matter of record.
260 Check that it can be proved that XXXXXXX did break the man's jaw.
263 XXXXXXX and ecstasy – proof?
265 Was it really 14% over base rate? – no wonder it went bust?
266 Line 5 – change "he of course went over budget" to "he went over budget" but check that can be proved. Line 22 – drunken interviews and misconceived outbursts – check that that can be proved.
278 Provided that it can be proved, could we change line 2 to "but xxx xxxxx was to put that right!"
286 xxxxxxx wielding a machete – check that this can be proved but it looks as if this may have been admitted in an interview.
289 Would the security firm not paying VAT be obviously identifiable and how likely would they be to complain? I suspect not very likely, but check.
304 How can the author prove this about the xxxxxxx? Particularly, how is it proved that they wanted a pirate ship built at this cost and that they cost this amount of money? I am not sure one can say literally about six people turned up when it seems from the appendix it was 190. I would suggest changing to something more along the lines of "pitifully few turned up" and I would also suggest taking out "we were pillaged by bloody pirates". May not xxxxxx complain about the reference to his stash?
331 It's a very small distinction but could we change "dirty bastards" to "bastards" (line 25).
344 xxxxxx prison sentence – check.
I appreciate that many of the points flagged up may be matters where the author will be satisfied that there is no possibility of the person involved complaining, probably because they are notorious for their drug-taking or whatever. This is perhaps the clash between the world of running a club where hundreds of thousands of people are taking ecstasy and the libel lawyer coming along later and making the point that people could be said to be committing a criminal offence. My aim is to flag up in relation to the living persons the instances where one needs to consider whether the wording should be changed or to check at this stage rather than when a complaint is made whether what is written can be proved. I do not consider the problems relating to this book are great but there are some matters which need review and some phrases which should perhaps prudently be removed. I have taken a view when going though the book as to whether I consider people who are accused of random acts of violence or serious drug-taking are identifiable. If there are any incidents where it is thought that the people might be identifiable or there is in anyone's mind a question as to the passage I would be most grateful if it could be drawn to my attention so that I could reconsider the position.
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