Almost four years since South Yorkshire Police raided his home in Berkshire with the BBC providing helicopter coverage, the pop icon has been awarded an initial £210,000 in damages for a breach of privacy.
Sir Cliff Richard has emerged victorious in his privacy case against the BBC over their coverage of a police raid on his home four years ago.
The judge in the case, Mr Justice Mann ruled at the High Court in London on Wednesday (July 18th) that the legendary singer will be awarded an initial £190,000 in damages, saying the BBC’s reporting of the South Yorkshire police’s raid of Richard’s Berkshire home in August 2014 as part of an investigation into historical child sex allegations was a “serious invasion” of privacy.
The judge awarded a further £20,000 in aggravated damages because of the corporation’s later decision to nominate its coverage for the Royal Television Society’s scoop of the year award. This sum is to be burdened in 65% by the BBC and the remainder by South Yorkshire Police, which carried out the raid and tipped off the network.
Cliff Richard has won his privacy case against the BBC
77 year old Richard, who had appeared in court to hear the verdict, told reporters afterwards: “I’m choked up. I can’t believe it. It’s wonderful news.”
Further damages relating to the financial impact the story had on him, such as the losses from cancelled book deals and public appearances, are yet to be assessed by the court but could be much higher than the original sum.
The BBC’s director of news, Fran Unsworth, apologised to Richard and said there were elements of its coverage that the network should have handled differently.
However, she warned about the wider consequences for press freedom, as the judge had ruled that simply naming Richard as the suspect in the case – not just the helicopter pictures and coverage – amounted to an invasion of privacy, and that the BBC intended to appeal 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.”
But, she added, “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. 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.”