Sir Cliff Richard has spoken out about the “disastrous” impact of the BBC’s coverage of a police raid on his home after winning his privacy case against the broadcaster.
The singer was awarded £210,000 in damages against the Corporation, which televised the 2014 raid by police investigating historical child sex allegations. Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged.
- Sir Cliff Richard wins damages in privacy case against the BBC
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In a tearful interview with ITV, Sir Cliff said that now he “won’t go anywhere near children”.
Speaking about how the allegations and public scrutiny have changed his life, he told broadcaster Julie Etchingham how the coverage and subsequent case has impacted his interactions with fans.
“One of the easiest things to do is give pleasure to people,” he said. “That’s by singing, but it’s also by being photographed by people, by hugging their babies. It’s such a simple thing to do and you give pleasure by that. It’s been removed from me,” he said.
“I have pictures taken, but I stand slightly away, and don’t touch,” he added, explaining that while he will get over it, “I don’t think I’m ever going to forget it. How can I forget what’s been the most horrible, disastrous thing that’s ever taken place in my life?”
Sir Cliff also said that if heads were to roll at the BBC “it would be deserved”.
“They [senior managers] have to carry the can. I don’t know how they are going to do it, but they’ll have to. If heads roll then maybe it’s because it was deserved…It’s too big a decision to be made badly. It was nonsense.”
The BBC apologised to Sir Cliff in a statement following the verdict: “We are sorry for the distress that Sir Cliff has been through. We understand the very serious impact that this has had on him.”
However, the Corporation added that it was considering appealing the verdict, which it said set a worrying precedent on future reporting and “represents a dramatic shift against press freedom and the long-standing ability of journalists to report on police investigations”.
The court’s decision was described by Sir Cliff in the ITV interview as an “enormous relief” and “incredibly emotional”, and the 77-year-old added that his intention behind bringing the case was not to curtail press freedom.
“I want a correction made to what happened to me and it was made,” he said. “Nobody said anything about freedom of speech but I will fight to the death against the abuse of the freedom of speech. What the BBC did was an abuse. They took it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner.”
Sir Cliff revealed that the “deepest, darkest moment” of the case was when he collapsed on his kitchen floor, and said that he has hardly slept most nights since the raid.
Talking about how the story spread internationally, Sir Cliff said: “It’s hard to explain how that feels to me because I have spent so long trying to do things right, to be an ambassador for Britain and I feel I have been an ambassador and I will always be.
“But it was such a shock to me to think how can I undo this? It seems an impossible thing to undo.”