Max Clifford asks High Court to throw out former royal butler's confidentiality claim over fax sent to NoW

Disgraced publicist Max Clifford has asked the High Court to throw out a claim by former royal butler Paul Burrell that he breached his confidentiality by passing personal details about him to the News of the World.

Clifford, currently serving an eight-year jail sentence for sex offences, has branded the action for breach of confidence and misuse of private information brought by Burrell (pictured in 2008, Reuters) as an ''affront to common sense" and without merit.

Burrell says he hired Clifford in 2001 to limit negative press coverage about him but, rather than stopping stories, the publicist passed on private information to the now-defunct tabloid.

Clifford's case is that their agreement was for him to sell information to a newspaper and a fax he sent was a "teaser".

Clifford's counsel, Lorna Skinner told Mr Justice Mann in London on Thursday, 25 June, that the claim for up to £50,000 damages and an injunction had been brought outside the legal time limit and would be a waste of court resources.

"It is a stale claim and should be stopped now – full stop," she said.

Clifford sent the contentious fax of a personal letter written to him by Burrell to News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks in November 2002 – the day after Burrell was acquitted at the Old Bailey of stealing items which had belonged to the late Princess Diana.

Brooks passed it on to the tabloid's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.

Skinner described its content, about Burrell's relationship with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, as mainly "tittle-tattle", which was not published and which Burrell himself was willing to reveal in a book he wrote a year later.

Putting the real value of the claim at less than £10,000, she said there was no evidence of any financial benefit accruing to Clifford and that the litigation had become a "costs driven exercise".

"This is a case in which it is not only plain that the game is not worth the candle, it is not even worth the wick," she told the judge.

According to William Bennett, representing Burrell: "Clifford says that Mr Burrell should be sent from this court with his tail between his legs and receive no vindication having failed in his claim – which was that Clifford had been guilty of a very, very serious misuse of private information and confidence.

"The outrageousness of it is that Clifford was retained to keep secrets, not to tell them to the media, and it is so serious because, if one goes back to 2002, the worst person in the UK for this to be sent to is Rebekah Brooks.

"It is all very well saying it has only been sent to one person, but when that was the editor of the News of the World, the fax was being sent to the biggest selling Sunday tabloid in the country, which adds to the grossness of the misuse of the private information."

The judge reserved his decision.

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