Cliff Richard wins privacy case against BBC over police raid of home

Sir Cliff Richard has been left overjoyed after winning his privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a police raid on his home.

In a judgement handed down at the High Court, the judge said the BBC had infringed Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a “serious” and “sensationalist” way.

The singer has been awarded £210,000 damages but Mr Justice Mann added that he will get additional sums to be decided at a later date.

Following the judgement, the BBC said it would be looking at appealing.

<em>Emotional – Sir Cliff was visibly emotional following the judgement (Picture: Reuters)</em>
Emotional – Sir Cliff was visibly emotional following the judgement (Picture: Reuters)

Speaking outside court following the judgement, an emotional Sir Cliff said: “I’m choked up. I can’t believe it. It’s wonderful news.”

His spokesman Phil Hall added: “It’s been a very hard journey for him.”

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Sir Cliff’s lawyer Gideon Benaim said the singer never expected after 60 years in the public eye to have his “privacy and reputation tarnished in such a way”.

He said “serious questions” should be asked about why the organisation tried so hard to preserve its “exclusive” story.

Mr Benaim added the singer was not interested in personal gain as he would be out of “substantially out of pocket” and his aim was to “right a wrong”.

<em>Hard journey – Sir Cliff’s spokesman said it had been a hard journey for him (Picture: Reuters)</em>
Hard journey – Sir Cliff’s spokesman said it had been a hard journey for him (Picture: Reuters)

The BBC’s Director of News, Fran Unsworth, said the corporation would be looking at appealing against the judgment.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson, from South Yorkshire Police, said he accepted the judge’s findings and apologised to Sir Cliff.

He said: “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.

“I would like to take this opportunity to again offer our sincere apologies for the distress Sir Cliff Richard has suffered.”

What does this mean for media reporting?

The high-profile case raises questions of the future of media reporting when it comes to police investigations.

<em>Choked up – Cliff Richard said his privacy case victory was “wonderful news” (Picture: Reuters)</em>
Choked up – Cliff Richard said his privacy case victory was “wonderful news” (Picture: Reuters)

Criminal defence lawyer Robert Conway, from Vardags, said: “It could lead to a call to reform the law to give better protection to those under investigation for allegations such as this one, where assumptions are inevitably made about guilt or innocence before charges have even been brought. The award of aggravated damages is particularly telling of the court’s disapproval of the tactics employed.

“This is a case with huge implications for media reporting in general versus the rights of the individual to privacy under article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

“The stigma that attaches to people accused of these sorts of crimes even when there is no evidential basis is immense and potentially life changing. The police’s own guidance clearly provides that in most cases a suspect’s identity should remain confidential during an investigation stage.”