February 10, 2006

UK judge dismisses private case against Barrymore

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - TV entertainer Michael Barrymore avoided
legal action over a man who drowned at a party held at his
Essex mansion five years ago after a judge on Friday dismissed
a request for a private prosecution.

Activist lawyer Tony Bennett had asked a court to summon
Barrymore to answer charges alleging drug offences and assault
in connection with the death of 31-year-old meat factory worker
Stuart Lubbock in March 2001.

District Judge Kevin Gray refused the application at
Southend Magistrates Court in Essex for lack of evidence.

Bennett said the hearing had been called at the last minute
at the request of Barrymore's lawyers because the entertainer
was returning to New Zealand on Saturday.

He said the court's refusal closed the door to further
private legal action against Barrymore, 53, over the death.

"It think now the only way of getting at the truth of what
happened is if somebody who was at that party comes forward
with a statement," Bennett told Reuters.

Lubbock's 61-year-old father Terry said he was disappointed
by the court decision but had known there was a chance the
private prosecution would fail.

Public scandal over the death destroyed Barrymore's once
highly successful British television career, even though no
charges were ever brought against him.

He has recently been living in New Zealand, but returned to
Britain last month to appear for three weeks on Channel 4's
Celebrity Big Brother contest.

In a statement after the hearing, Barrymore said he
remained committed to discovering how Lubbock died.

Lubbock was found in Barrymore's swimming pool and an
inquest recorded an open verdict.

The coroner said Lubbock had drugs and alcohol in his
system and had suffered serious anal injuries.

"Mr Bennett's motivation to seek the truth as to how Mr
Stuart Lubbock received the injuries to his body is absolutely
right," Barrymore said.

"I remain totally committed as I always have been to
continue pursuing the truth about Stuart Lubbock's death on
that tragic evening and would very much welcome working
alongside Mr Terry Lubbock to uncover the truth.

"Allegations about drugs from that night have always been a
complete irrelevance as to how Stuart Lubbock suffered those

"The court held that Mr Bennett's misguided application
today to prosecute me for drug offences was an abuse of
process, not in the public interest and the evidence on which
he relied upon today was inadequate or unlawfully obtained."


Terry Lubbock told Reuters he had not heard from Barrymore
since meeting him for the first time in an interview arranged
by a newspaper at the end of last month.

Lubbock and Barrymore told the paper they were going to
work together to find out how Lubbock's son died.

"That was the only thing concrete that came out of the
meeting," Lubbock said after the hearing.

"But Mr Barrymore is going back to New Zealand tomorrow, so
that doesn't really hold water at this stage."

A spokeswoman for the entertainer said Lubbock would be
able to meet Barrymore's representatives in Britain and that
Barrymore could be contacted while abroad.