UNITED KINGOM – Sir Cliff Richard has won his privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a police raid on his home. High Court judge Mr Justice Mann awarded an initial £210,000 in damages. The singer claimed the BBC’s reporting of the 2014 raid, which was part of an investigation into historical child sex allegations, was a “serious invasion” of privacy. He was never arrested or charged. The BBC said journalists acted in good faith and it is considering an appeal.
Speaking outside the High Court in London, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth apologised to Sir Cliff and said: “In retrospect, there are things we would have done differently.” But, she said, the case marked a “significant shift” against press freedom and an “important principle” around the public’s right to know was at stake.
In his judgement, Mr Justice Mann said the BBC had infringed Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a “serious” and “sensationalist” way. He rejected the BBC’s case that its reporting, which included footage filmed from a helicopter, was justified under rights of freedom of expression and of the press. Mr Justice Mann said a suspect in a police investigation “has a reasonable expectation of privacy” and while Sir Cliff being investigated “might be of interest to the gossip-monger”, there was not a “genuine public interest” case.
He awarded Sir Cliff £190,000 damages and an extra £20,000 in aggravated damages after the BBC submitted its coverage of the raid for an award. The BBC must pay 65% of the £190,000 and South Yorkshire Police, who carried out the raid, 35%. South Yorkshire Police had earlier agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 after settling a claim he brought against the force.
At court, Sir Cliff told the BBC he was “choked up” at the judgement, adding: “It’s wonderful news.” Fans supporting him sang the singer’s hit Congratulations as the judgement was announced. The 77-year-old singer took legal action against the BBC over broadcasts of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
Officers were investigating an allegation made by a man who claimed he was sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at an event at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane in 1985 when he was a child.