The Duchess of Sussex has sacked the barrister leading her legal battle against a national newspaper, replacing him with one of his archrivals as the court case resumes today.
David Sherborne, whose clients have included Diana, Princess of Wales, and more recently the actor Johnny Depp, will no longer act for the duchess when the case against the Mail on Sunday continues, The Times has confirmed.
Mr Sherborne lost the first pre-trial hearing in May. As a result the duchess was ordered to pay the newspaper $87,116 in legal costs.
Justin Rushbrooke, QC, has confirmed to The Times that he will represent the former television actress in future hearings.
David Sherborne, whose clients have included Diana, Princess of Wales, and more recently the actor Johnny Depp, will no longer act for the duchess.
The QC is said to have impressed her when standing in for Mr Sherborne while he was busy representing Mr Depp in his defamation claim against The Sun newspaper. There was also speculation in media law circles that the duchess, 39, had ditched Mr Sherborne in solidarity with Amber Heard, Mr Depp’s former wife, who has accused the actor of domestic violence.
A senior lawyer familiar with both barristers said that Mr Sherborne’s representation of Mr Depp could have troubled the duchess. But sources close to her denied those claims.
Mr Rushbrooke, who acted for Sir Cliff Richard in his legal action against the BBC over a breach of privacy, successfully argued in the High Court last July that the identity of five friends of the duchess who spoke to People, the US magazine, about her relationship with her father should remain anonymous.
It is understood there is no love lost between Mr Sherborne and Mr Rushbrooke, who both work out of the chambers 5RB. A source described them as “chalk and cheese”. Mr Sherborne has faced grumbling for a keenness to engage with the media, often appearing on the steps of court with his wig perched atop his bouffant hair — the wearing of wigs outside court remains frowned upon by the Bar.
Mr Sherborne’s rise took a knock in 2014 when he was representing phone-hacking victims before the Leveson inquiry. It emerged that he dashed off for a holiday on a Greek island with Carine Patry Hoskins, a lawyer for the inquiry.
He has since kept a lower profile but when he was instructed to represent the Duchess of Sussex he was expected to return to the legal A-list. Mr Rushbrooke, described as more staid, has also acted for JK Rowling, the author, and Naomi Campbell, the model. He will appear in court today for the duchess, although it is understood that a more junior barrister will handle the early session. Mr Sherborne did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr Rushbrooke, described as more staid, has also acted for JK Rowling, the author, and Naomi Campbell, the model.
The duchess is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), publisher of The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, over an article published in February 2019 that reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she had sent to her father the previous August. She is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
ANL wholly denies the allegations, particularly the duchess’s claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case. ANL won the first High Court skirmish in May when Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of the duchess’s claim against the publisher, including allegations that The Mail on Sunday acted “dishonestly” by leaving out certain passages of the letter. The judge also struck out allegations that the publisher deliberately “stirred up” issues between the duchess and her father and that it had an “agenda” of publishing intrusive stories about her.
The duchess agreed to pay in full the publisher’s costs of $87,116.