Cliff Richard drags BBC to court, for a "very serious invasion" of his privacy
While the BBC has said that the coverage of the raid was in public interest, singer Cliff Richard is distressed by the loss of reputation and invasion of his privacy caused by it
Cliff Richard has dragged BBC to the High Court as the singer claims that the news organization's coverage of a police raid at his home had caused him 'great damage for which his lawyers are seeking 'very top end of the scale' compensation, according to Daily Mail.
Cliff's lawyers stated that the decision of the company to cover the event was a 'very serious invasion' of privacy and his friend, Gloria Hunniford stepped into the court in order to provide evidence in favor of Cliff. The lawsuit stems from the time when officers swept into his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014 following an allegation of sexual assault. Cliff denied the accusations and even though there had been no charges against him, the singer claims that he suffered 'profound and long-lasting damage'.
Cliff's suit is that as a result of the embarrassing coverage, his career and status had been deeply affected. In order to ensure that his reputation was not affected, he had to put his home up for sale, disturb his creative and business plans, leaving him with legal costs of around £1million.
However, BBC claims that the coverage had been conducted in public interest. It is believed that the legal battle is going to last for around 10 days. Prior to this, Cliff had filed a case against BBC and South Yorkshire Police for the same raid. South Yorkshire Police agreed to pay Sir Cliff Richard £400,000 after he brought the lawsuit in front of them. The dispute was settled as the force agreed to pay him with substantial damages.
Justin Rushbrooke QC, who is leading Cliff's legal team said, "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.
"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."
Justin added that the BBC journalist received a 'tip-off' about the raid from a source in Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan Police investigation. "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 further added that the journalist used the police for information to 'get what he wanted' from the force.
He also stated that it was the decision of BBC to name Sir Cliff and film the raid on his home even though it was made clear that the police were not going to name him in their public statement. He accused the network of using TV cameras to 'spy into someone's home' and said that Cliff was very much in the right to appeal to the court because the network refused to accept that the journalists had acted 'unlawfully'.
Justin went on to accuse BBC of being aware of the problems that would arise if they went on with the broadcast. He stated that the company had an 'obsessive desire' to scoop rivals and wanted to 'make headlines' rather than 'report the news'. "They were playing with fire, but Sir Cliff was the one who got burned," he added.
However, the lawyers who are representing BBC said that the coverage was a 'matter of legitimate public interest'. Gavin Millar QC, who is representing BBC legal team said that the journalists had respected Cliff's rights as 'the suspect' and 'in particular the presumption of innocence'. He defended the actions of the company in a statement.
"The BBC seeks to defend (Sir Cliff's) claim, in essence, on the basis that it's reporting of the search... was accurate and in good faith, was on a matter of legitimate public interest and respected the rights of (Sir Cliff) as a suspect, in particular the presumption of innocence," he said. The time when the raid was conducted, Cliff was accused of sexually abusing a child at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium in 1985.
This allegation had been passed to South Yorkshire Police by officers at Scotland Yard in July 2014. While the investigation was going on, Cliff denied the accusations and in 2016 the court dismissed the investigation stating that there will be no charges against him. The BBC is now fighting the lawsuit claiming that if Cliff wins, it would damage press freedom. A BBC spokesman has said the corporation had reported Cliff's 'full denial of the allegations at every stage'.