Former royal butler and Farndon resident Paul Burrell has won a High Court case against disgraced former publicist to the stars Max Clifford regarding misuse of private information.
The High Court has today (Friday, February 19) given judgement in Mr Burrell’s favour in his claim against Mr Clifford for misuse of private information, awarding him the sum of £5,000 in damages.
At the heart of the case was a letter written in the spring of 2002 by Mr Burrell to Mr Clifford, which both parties agreed contained Mr Burrell’s private and confidential information, but which Mr Clifford subsequently faxed to Rebekah Brooks, the then editor of the News of the World.
The fact this letter had been faxed by Mr Clifford to the News of the World only became known to Mr Burrell - who runs a florist shop in Farndon - in 2011 when, during the course of his phone hacking claim against the publisher of the now defunct newspaper, he was shown the faxed copy of the letter by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service who had seized the document during the course of their investigations.
The central issue in the case was whether Mr Clifford acted unlawfully in communicating the contents of the letter to the News of the World and whether that communication was authorised by Mr Burrell.
It was Mr Burrell’s case that he had first met with Mr Clifford in the spring of 2002, at a time of intense media interest in him, following his arrest on charges of the alleged theft of items belonging to the Royal Family (of which he was subsequently acquitted).
Mr Burrell said he had sought the assistance of Max Clifford to help protect him from the intense media scrutiny.
Mr Clifford claimed that Mr Burrell had, in fact, contacted him to broker the sale of his story. In any event, contemporaneous press cuttings before the court reported that the instruction had lasted a matter of days and had ended some six months prior to the sending of the fax in November 2002.
The judge has today found that Mr Burrell did not provide the letter to Mr Clifford for the purpose of marketing the contents to the media and that Mr Clifford “acted in breach of the trust and confidence which Mr Burrell reposed in him in sending the fax to the News of the World”.
The judge found Mr Clifford’s claim that he was authorised to fax the letter to the News of the World “highly implausible and entirely unconvincing”. Conversely, he considered that Mr Burrell’s case on this issue was “both coherent and consistent with the undisputed facts”, namely that he had no contact with Mr Clifford after about May 2002.
More generally, the judge considered that “the capacity for ruthlessness and the propensity for dishonesty which emerge from Mr Clifford’s criminal trial provide additional grounds to mistrust his evidence before me”.
Max Clifford, 72, was jailed for eight years in May 2014 for a string of indecent assaults.
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The judge also observed that Mr Clifford’s demeanour seemed quite aggressive at times, which did not assist him, and noted that “deception is second nature to Mr Clifford, even without regard to the history of his criminal prosecution, which can only serve to underline the point”.
Lia Perin, of Taylor Hampton Solicitors, who acted for Paul Burrell, said today: “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.”
Paul Burrell said today: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome and am delighted to have been vindicated by the High Court.”