Cliff Richard sues BBC over police raid coverage

Cliff Richard has today arrived at the High Court in London for his legal battle with the BBC.

The well-known British singer is suing the broadcaster over coverage of a police raid at his apartment in Berkshire in August 2014, which followed an allegation of sex assault.

The 77-year-old, who was not charged with any offence, has claimed he suffered "profound and long-lasting damage" as a result of the coverage.

However, BBC editors have stated that they will defend themselves "vigorously".

Cliff Richard's lawyers told the High Court that BBC coverage of the raid on the singer's home was a "very serious invasion" of his privacy.

According to the BBC: "In a nutshell, it is Sir Cliff's case that the BBC's coverage of the search was an invasion - indeed a very serious invasion - of his privacy for which there was no lawful justification," wrote barrister Justin Rushbrooke QC, from Mr Richard's legal team, in a written statement to the judge.

"It is hard to encapsulate in words the sense of panic and powerlessness that must have been induced in him on 14 August 2014 when he realised that the BBC were relaying instantaneously and indiscriminately around the world highly sensitive and damaging information concerning himself - all based upon an allegation of serious criminal conduct which he knew to be entirely false."

Mr Rushbrooke told the judge that the BBC had used TV cameras to "spy into someone's home".

He said the BBC acted in a "highly intrusive" manner and Sir Cliff was entitled to "very substantial" damages or compensation for the "flagrant way" the BBC went about "breaching his rights".

He said: "The fact and the details of the investigation which the BBC published to the world at large, along with the video footage of his apartment being searched, were private information and there was no public interest in the disclosure of this information to the millions of viewers and website readers around the world to whom it was published."

The court heard a BBC journalist had received a tip-off about the police raid from a Metropolitan Police source working in Operation Yewtree, the investigation into allegations of historical sex offences.

"This was a case of a journalist making use of information that must have been leaked improperly, indeed unlawfully, by someone within a highly sensitive police investigation," he said.

He added police "made clear" that Sir Cliff was not going to be named in a public statement, but the BBC took the decision to name him and film the raid.

Mr Rushbrooke said the BBC news team were "desperate to be the first media organisation to break their story, and this desire not to be scooped was the predominant concern".

"For strong public policy reasons, persons who are under investigation but have not been charged with any offence should not be publicly named other than in exceptional circumstances - circumstances which were not present in this case.

"Moreover, even if there had been some public interest in the fact that the claimant was under investigation, the way that the BBC went about publishing the 'story' was so disproportionate, and so intrusive, as to render it unlawful."

 

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