THE singer Sir Cliff Richard has been awarded £210,000 in damages after winning his privacy case against the BBC over coverage of a police raid on his home.
Giving judgment in the High Court in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Mann said that the BBC had infringed Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a “serious” and “sensationalist” way. He rejected the BBC’s case that its reporting was justified under rights of freedom of expression and of the press.
Sir Cliff had claimed that the BBC’s coverage 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 over the allegations, which dated back to 1985.
Speaking outside court, Sir Cliff appeared choked with emotion, saying that it was “going to take a little while” and that he was too emotional to talk: “I hope you’ll forgive me.” Fans who had gathered outside the court sang a refrain of the singer’s hit “Congratulations” as he left with his legal team.
The damages include an extra £20,000 in aggravated damages after the BBC submitted its coverage of the raid for an award. The judge ordered the BBC to pay 65 per cent of the initial £190,000, and South Yorkshire Police, who carried out the raid, 35 per cent.
Sir Cliff’s lawyer, Gideon Benaim, said that the singer never expected after 60 years in the public eye to have his “privacy and reputation tarnished in such a way”. He said that “serious questions” should be asked about why the organisation tried so hard to preserve its “exclusive” story. He added that the singer was not interested in personal gain as he would be “substantially out of pocket”, and his aim had been to “right a wrong”.
South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable said that he accepted the judge’s findings. “I particularly welcome Mr Justice Mann’s findings that all South Yorkshire Police officers and staff were found to have acted entirely honestly and were credible and reliable witnesses. At a very early stage of these proceedings, we accepted and apologised to Sir Cliff Richard for the mistakes we made in our attempts to protect the integrity of the police investigation and the rights of the complainant, balanced against Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy rights.”
In a statement, the BBC’s Director of News, Fran Unsworth, said: “This judgment creates new case law and represents a dramatic shift against press freedom and the longstanding ability of journalists to report on police investigations, which in some cases has led to further complainants coming forward.
“There is a significant principle at stake. That is why the BBC is looking at an appeal.”