Court face-off between Max Clifford and former royal butler over secrets leaked to News of the World - Press Gazette

Court face-off between Max Clifford and former royal butler over secrets leaked to News of the World

Former royal butler Paul Burrell has denied that he was angry and hurt at private information being passed to the News of the World by disgraced PR guru Max Clifford because the story did not sell.

Burrell told Deputy Judge Richard Spearman that the fax which Clifford sent to editor Rebekah Brooks in November 2002 was a "very personal, intimate and private documentation" of details about his life with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the late Princess Diana which was not in the public domain.

"I worried about putting that down on paper and I worried if I was trusting the right person with that information".

He rejected a claim by Steven Barrett, counsel for Clifford, that the information about the butler's fall downstairs, the help given him by the Queen and gifts she had given his family, was not "very exciting".

"At that time it would have been very interesting to any tabloid."

Barrett said: "Is it entirely possible that your anger and hurt feelings have arisen because this story just didn't sell?"

Burrell: "Absolutely not."

He was watched from the dock at London's High Court on Monday by Clifford, who is serving an eight-year jail sentence for sex offences.

Clifford has branded the £50,000 action for breach of confidence and misuse of private information an ''affront to common sense".

He says that Burrell authorised him to send the fax as a "pitch" but Burrell says he hired Clifford to limit bad press coverage about him and any agreement was terminated before the fax was sent – the day after Burrell was acquitted at the Old Bailey of stealing items belonging to Princess Diana.

Referring to Clifford, Burrell said "This is a man who I trusted and was betrayed by."

Burrell said that after the trial, he sold his story to the Daily Mirror for £300,000 as he had been "viciously" attacked by the media and wished to give his defence which was not heard in court.

He was also offered £1 million "to tell all" about his time in the royal household but decided not to.

After he met Clifford in April 2002, he sent him a letter – which was later faxed to Ms Brooks – in response to the PR man saying he needed to know more about him.

"He said I had to trust him with my innermost secrets because all his clients did that and he locked their secrets up in his safe….he said that as my agent he would need to know my secrets so that he could defend me."

He added: "The letter that I sent was a matter of trust. I thought to myself 'everyone trusts him', he had a reputation as the number one PR agent at that time, he was everyone's 'go to man'."

He said that Clifford "went ballistic" when he terminated the relationship shortly afterwards because his counsel in the criminal trial said it could not continue.

A year after the fax was sent, he published his book A Royal Duty but did not feel this gave Clifford some form of retrospective justification.

"I am outraged and deeply upset by his actions. I trusted him. I find it difficult to explain just how low I was at that time.

"It was the most challenging time of my life and I have never felt so vulnerable, so to know that someone I trusted breached my trust in that way, for commercial gain, is sickening.

"At the time, I felt I had to trust someone, I obviously trusted the wrong person."

Giving evidence from behind the bars of the dock, Clifford said that Mr Burrell was never a PR client but came to him for one reason – to sell a "sensational" story about his time in royal service.

The letter, which contained a "very, very watered-down" version of what Burrell said he wanted to reveal, was sent him on the understanding that Clifford would use it to broker a deal for the sale.

By sending the fax, he was following Burrell's instructions, said Clifford.

After he sent it to Brooks, whose paper was the highest potential bidder, the money offered was a lot less than the £400,000 or £500,000 Burrell wanted.

At that point, Clifford said he gave up as he did not have the time or inclination to waste on a story which was very weak and not worth much at all.

"And it remained in confidence. Nothing he said to me appeared in the News of the World".

Challenged by Burrell's counsel, William Bennett, that his evidence was "nothing more than a pack of lies", Clifford said: "It's 100 per cent true and Paul Burrell knows it which is why he can't look me in the eyes now."

Clifford, who maintains his innocence over the sex offences and says he is appealing against his conviction, denied that he was prepared to lie not only to Paul Burrell but to the court.

"No, it's Paul Burrell who has lied to this court, not me. Look at his face."

At the close of his evidence, the judge qualified the normal courtesy granted to witnesses, saying: "For obvious reasons I am not going to say you are free to go."

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.