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  1. Media Law
February 19, 2016

Royal butler wins privacy claim over Max Clifford’s News of the World leak

By PA Mediapoint

Former royal butler Paul Burrell has won a High Court privacy action against disgraced PR guru Max Clifford.

A judge in London announced on Friday that his claim had succeeded – and awarded him £5,000 damages.

Clifford, who is serving an eight-year jail sentence for sex offences, had branded Burrell's £50,000 action for breach of confidence and misuse of private information an ''affront to common sense''.

Burrell (pictured, Reuters) said he hired Clifford to limit bad press coverage about him but, rather than stopping stories, he "betrayed" him by passing on material in a fax to Rebekah Brooks at the now-defunct News of the World.

In a statement after the ruling, Burrell, who was not in court, said: "I am extremely pleased with the outcome and am delighted to have been vindicated by the High Court."

Lia Perin, of Taylor Hampton Solicitors, who acted for Burrell, said: "This was a serious betrayal of confidence by Max Clifford.

"Paul Burrell had sought Mr Clifford's assistance and reposed his trust in him at a time when he was at his most vulnerable."

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Burrell said that any agreement between him and Clifford was terminated before the fax, containing details about Burrell's life with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the late Princess Diana, was sent in November 2002 – the day after the butler was acquitted of stealing items belonging to the Princess.

At a hearing at the High Court last month, Burrell told Deputy Judge Richard Spearman that after he met Clifford in April 2002, the PR man said 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: "This is a man who I trusted and was betrayed by."

Clifford said Burrell was never a PR client but came to him for one reason – to sell a "sensational" story to a newspaper about his time in royal service.

The letter which was faxed contained a watered-down version of what Burrell said he wanted to reveal and had been sent to Clifford on the basis he would use it as a "pitch" to broker a deal.

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

The newspaper offered a lot less than the £400,000 or £500,000 Burrell wanted, said Clifford, so he gave up as he did not have time to waste on a story which was not worth much at all.

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

Giving his decision on Friday, Judge Spearman said he found that Burrell "did not at any time engage or authorise Mr Clifford to market the contents of the letter, or send it to him to use for that purpose".

He considered that the "appropriate overall award in this case is £5,000".

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