Prince Harry’s celebrity barrister has denied leaking documents from the Leveson Inquiry which now lie at the heart of a privacy battle with the Daily Mail.
David Sherborne, whose past clients include Princess Diana, Meghan Markle, and Johnny Depp, is leading the legal team fighting against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, in the High Court.
Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is suing ANL alongside Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost, Sir Elton John, David Furnish, and Sir Simon Hughes over claims of illegal newsgathering dating back to 1993.
A key part of the legal battle is a series of ledgers - said to show evidence of payments to private investigators – which were handed to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards in 2012.
Mr Sherborne, who was a lawyer at the inquiry and signed a confidentiality agreement covering evidence, told the court on Tuesday morning that he is not the source of the leaked notes.
“The material didn’t reach the claimants’ solicitors in this case through the route of any of the three signatories who are part of the claimant’s group now”, he told the court.
“The defendants have got no evidence to challenge that.”
ANL is seeking to exclude the evidence from the privacy battle, arguing its confidentiality was secured by Leveson Inquiry rules which can only be overturned by a government minister.
But Mr Sherborne argued those involved in the inquiry do not have a “super-added duty…to police any use they see by third parties of the same material.”
He insisted that the evidence can be lawfully deployed in civil proceedings if it has come into the public domain by another route.
In its written submissions to the court, ANL has pointed out that Hurley, Sir Elton, and Furnish are all “close friends of Hugh Grant who was a core participant in the Leveson Inquiry”, and added that Baroness Lawrence is “associated” with another Inquiry witness, DCI Clive Driscoll.
The court heard on Monday that the publisher had issued a press release specifically linking Mr Sherborne to his role in the Inquiry.
ANL argues the evidence was “protected by orders made by Lord Justice Leveson”, and it is also seeking to block the legal claim on the grounds that it is too late.
It says there was a “wealth of information” in the public domain about past practices at the Mail newspapers, and Mr Sherborne himself told the Inquiry more than a decade ago that purchasing private information was “widespread throughout Fleet Street” and ANL was a “particular offender [which was] top of the table”.
ANL argues that the claims could have reasonably begun within the usual six-year time limit.
Mr Sherborne has been on his feet making legal submissions for most of the second day of the hearings, with Prince Harry sat two rows behind him.
The Oxford-educated barrister, who attended the same school as long-time Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, was recently victorious on Coleen Rooney’s legal team in the Wagatha Christie High Court trial.
He boasts Tony Blair, Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Moss, David Beckham, and Harry Styles among his rostrum of former clients.
During submissions to the court, Mr Justice Nicklin said he is “concerned” about who is responsible for policing confidentiality undertakings made during the Leveson Inquiry.
He said that “basic contract law” requires that in order for a confidentiality agreement to be enforced someone has to be able to stand there and say that they have the power to enforce it.
“Who is that person?” he asked, adding: “I am now concerned about who is responsible for policing the Leveson undertakings.”
He raised the possibility of pausing the legal proceedings for permission to be sought from the government for those documents to be used as evidence.
The hearing continues.