Rival Ancestry Companies At Loggerheads In Libel Claim Resulting In £40,000 Damages

Turvey v Finders

An Ancestry Company, Finders featured on BBC’s Heir Hunters has agreed to pay their rivals, Anglia Research Services, an Ipswich father and son genealogy firm featured on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, the sum of £40,000 in libel damages in the High Court. This comes at the end of a long and bitter legal battle between the rivals, in which the High Court heard was a…

“serious attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

Case details

Both firms undertake genealogical research which includes tracing relatives of those who have died in order to enable them to inherit estates. The Claimants, Peter and Philip Turvey of Anglia Research Services, help to draw up family trees for celebrity subjects on Who Do You Think You Are?, sued Finders Genealogists Limited and it’s Chief Executive, Daniel Curran, who appears as a probate detective on Heir Hunters.

The Claimants told the Court that this long standing dispute has been on-going since 2016. The dispute appears to have originally arose when the Claimants sued Finders for alleged defamatory statements that were made in emails and on the internet. This dispute was resolved by way of settlement.

Shortly after the settlement, the Claimant was provided with evidence of further libellous emails from Daniel Curran to sales representatives. These emails made a number of false claims, in particular, a claim that Peter and Philip Turvey had run an abusive Twitter account which posted pictures that were unlawfully taken of Finders’ staff. The email’s also suggested that the account had followed Curran’s daughter’s primary school feed in order to stalk her. The emails also falsely claimed that Anglia Research had made a fraudulent claim for an estate of about £1 million.

The tip off was made by an anonymous whistle-blower who was concerned at the behaviour and general conduct of Finders. This information leak led to Anglia Research Services instructing lawyers to contact Finders in order to ask them to preserve the alleged defamatory material. When contacted by the firm, Mr Curran confirmed that he did write the emails but that they had never actually been sent out to the recipients. He said that they were only ever in draft form. This was confirmed by an internal report produced by Finders.

Finders agreed to freeze their systems in order to preserve the material on their IT systems. In 2017, a Court order was made for disclosure. The independent IT consultant told the Court that they found no trace of the emails on Finders International’s systems. The statement to the Court was held as an extraordinary admission that the company had purged the material, breaching an obligation to the Court and failing to comply with the Civil Procedure Rules.

Peter and Philip Turvey requested whether they could contact likely recipients of any such emails from Curran of Finders. They then received another anonymous package which contained evidence that Finders had asked his representatives to delete a large number of emails advising them it was for GDPR purposes.

It was therefore found that Finders had engaged in…

“a sustained and dishonest attempt to conceal evidence of publication”

And had it not have been for the tip off from the whistle-blower, the Claimants might never have discovered conduct…

“which bore, and bears, all of the hallmarks of a serious attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

Finders agreed to settle by £40,000 in libel damages and costs.

What does this means in real terms?

  • If ordered by the Court to preserve information you must comply with such an order, and taking steps to conceal such information can have dire/criminal consequences; and
  • Destroying evidence related to a case intentionally can have criminal ramifications.

Get in touch with us if:

  • You believe you are the subject of a defamatory publication
  • You have published or engaged with an alleged defamatory publication
  • You have an order from the Court in relation to disclosure
  • You have any queries in relation to GDPR, defamation and privacy claims

Turvey FindersHow can Nelsons help?

Sayra Dhillon is a Trainee Solicitor in our expert Dispute Resolution team.

For further information in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Sayra or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.