Sir Cliff Richard has won his privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a police raid on his home.
The singer was awarded £210,000 in damages against the Corporation for its reporting of the 2014 raid by police investigating historical child sex allegations. Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged.
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The presiding judge Mr Justice Mann said the BBC had infringed Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a “serious” and “sensationalist” way and rejected the BBC’s claim that its reporting was justified under rights of freedom of expression.
The singer was awarded £190,000 damages and an extra £20,000 in aggravated damages after the BBC submitted its coverage of the raid for an award. The cost of the award will be split, with the BBC paying 65% of the £190,000 and South Yorkshire Police, who carried out the raid, 35%.
The BBC apologised to Sir Cliff in a statement which said: “We are sorry for the distress that Sir Cliff has been through. We understand the very serious impact that this has had on him.
“We have thought long and hard about how we covered this story. On reflection, there are things we would have done differently, however the judge has ruled that the very naming of Sir Cliff was unlawful. So even had the BBC not used helicopter shots or ran the story with less prominence, the Judge would still have found that the story was unlawful; despite ruling that what we broadcast about the search was accurate.”
However, the Corporation added that it was planning to appeal against the verdict which it said set a worrying precedent on future reporting.
“This judgment creates new case law and represents a dramatic shift against press freedom and the long-standing ability of journalists to report on police investigations, which in some cases has led to further complainants coming forward,” added the BBC.
“This impacts not just the BBC, but every media organisation.
“This isn’t just about reporting on individuals. It means police investigations, and searches of people’s homes, could go unreported and unscrutinised. It will make it harder to scrutinise the conduct of the police and we fear it will undermine the wider principle of the public’s right to know. It will put decision-making in the hands of the police.
“We don’t believe this is compatible with liberty and press freedoms; something that has been at the heart of this country for generations.
“For all of these reasons, there is a significant principle at stake. That is why the BBC is looking at an appeal.”