Royal butler's privacy claim over Max Clifford's News of the World letter leak reaches High Court

Former royal butler Paul Burrell's privacy claim against disgraced PR guru Max Clifford reaches the High Court today.

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

Burrell (pictured, Reuters) says he hired Clifford in 2001 to limit bad press coverage about him but, rather than stopping stories, the publicist passed on material to the now-defunct News Of The World.

Clifford's case is that their agreement was for him to sell information to a newspaper and the fax of a personal letter written to him by Burrell was a "teaser".

He sent it to editor Rebekah Brooks in November 2002 – the day after Burrell was acquitted at the Old Bailey of stealing items belonging to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Brooks passed it on to royal correspondent Clive Goodman.

In an unsuccessful bid to have the case thrown out last year, Clifford's counsel Lorna 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 put in a book a year later.

Putting the real value of the case at less than £10,000, they said there was no evidence of any financial benefit for Clifford and that the litigation was a "costs-driven exercise".

But, Burrell's counsel, William Bennett, claimed that Clifford was guilty of a "very, very serious" misuse of private information and confidence.

"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."

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