David Sherborne: the ‘barrister to the stars’ representing Prince Harry

Lawyer has successfully argued for celebrities but some colleagues find him ‘showy’

David Sherborne arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London
David Sherborne arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London
(Image credit: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

David Sherborne has a long history of representing the rich and famous in court.

Now the high-profile lawyer, known as the “barrister to the stars”, is taking on Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and News Group Newspapers on behalf of Prince Harry over alleged phone hacking, said the i news site.

The royal is suing the publishers, claiming that journalists at their titles used nefarious tactics to gather information, including phone hacking, “blagging” – gaining information by deception – and the unlawful use of private investigators.

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Called to the bar

The son of a criminal QC, Sherborne was educated privately in Hampstead and at Oxford, where he got a first-class honours degree in classics. After finishing his Bar Finals at the Inns of Court School of Law, he was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1992, according to his chambers website.

In 2003, he was a junior member of the team that won the landmark privacy case for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones against Hello! magazine and he was also involved in Max Mosley’s successful 2008 suit against the News of the World.

Dacre’s nemesis

Sherborne came to wider public attention during the 2012 Leveson inquiry into press standards, where he argued on behalf of celebrities who said their privacy had been invaded.

Sherborne, then 43, was “boyish, tanned and sporting a metropolitan bouffant of hair”, said The Guardian, as he made the then editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, “increasingly apoplectic” with his questions about phone hacking.

After Lord Leveson’s report was published, Dacre’s paper published stories about Sherborne’s private life. The “Loverson inquiry” stories reported that the “twice divorced” lawyer was in a relationship with the junior counsel acting for Leveson – Carine Patry Hoskins – who had left her husband, another barrister. The pair said their relationship began after the inquiry ended.

Sherborne made headlines again when it was revealed that he had been paid £220,000 of taxpayers’ money for the Leveson case, noted The Independent.

However, the intrusive stories seemed to work to Sherborne’s advantage. Having had paparazzi photographers camped on his own doorstep, he was more relatable for celebrity clients. He was soon representing a galaxy of stars: Elton John, Harry Styles, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. The Hollywood actor even greeted Sherborne with a hug outside court.

Sherborne has also represented other A-listers, including Diana, Princess of Wales, Tony Blair, Amy Winehouse and Johnny Depp. However, noted the Daily Mail, in September 2020, he was dropped from the Duchess of Sussex’s legal team in her case against The Mail on Sunday following an early setback.

‘Orange sherbet’

Sherbourne found himself centre-stage again last year when he successfully defended Coleen Rooney against Rebekah Vardy’s “Wagatha Christie�� libel case. Vardy sued Rooney for libel over an Instagram post in which Rooney claimed Vardy was leaking personal stories about her to The Sun newspaper.

The hearings saw “the best and worst of his style” – one described by fellow barristers as a mixture of “undoubted charm”, “showboating” and “frequently pissing off the judge”, said The Guardian.

His approach seems to draw him praise and disdain. Tatler has called him “dashing” but the i news site said snobbery from legal rivals has prevented him from being appointed a KC.

“The gatekeepers don’t like that he is a bit showy,” leading media lawyer Mark Stephens said.

A former colleague told The Times that Sherborne – known to colleagues as “Sherbs”, or “Orange Sherbet” because of “his year-round mahogany tan” – likes to present “a fun, outgoing persona and is very limelight-seeking”, adding that “all the other barristers in chambers were hyper-critical of him”.

Prince Harry vs. MGN

Prince Harry’s trial got off to a rocky start this week when he failed to appear on the trial’s opening day. The judge appeared “visibly irritated” at the news, said Metro, telling the court he was “a little surprised” the duke wouldn’t be attending. Sherbourne told the court Harry was “obviously in a different category” to other witnesses due to his travel and security arrangements.

After two subsequent days of “tense exchanges and questions” the prince was left “visibly emotional”, said Sky News. Now it is time for his barrister to turn the questions on the Mirror’s witness.

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