SIR CLIFF RICHARD PRIVACY CASE WIN - LEGAL EXPERT COMMENT
Sir Cliff Richard has succeeded in his claim against the BBC for breach of his privacy and been awarded substantial (including aggravated) damages of £210,000.
The high-profile entertainer sued the BBC following its widespread coverage (including live, helicopter footage) of a raid on his home by South Yorkshire Police ("SYP") in 2014. The BBC had been tipped off by SYP that they would raid Sir Cliff's house in response to an allegation of a sexual nature relating to an incident from the 1980s involving a boy under the age of 16. Sir Cliff always expressly denied the allegations. He was never arrested, let alone charged.
South Yorkshire Police had previously settled a separate claim against them brought by Sir Cliff. They apologised unreservedly and agreed to pay £400,000 in damages, but argued in this claim that the BBC should contribute to those damages, having been primarily responsible for the damage caused. The Court agreed, and has ordered damages to be apportioned 65:35 as between the BBC and SYP.
Commenting on today's High Court judgment, Mishcon de Reya's Head of Reputation Protection, Emma Woollcott said:
"This important judgment vindicates Sir Cliff Richard's claim that the nature of the BBC's reporting, and the level of intrusion into his privacy, were plainly excessive. The Judge acknowledged that there is a very significant public interest in reporting the fact of police investigations into historic sex abuse, but criticised the BBC's style of reporting – which included footage from a helicopter circling Sir Cliff's house. The court said this "added drama and a degree of sensationalism" materially increased the impact of the privacy invasion. No doubt we will now see further claims from high-profile individuals who have suffered intensive media coverage and public scrutiny – often driven by the public clamouring for gossip and sensationalised reporting, rather than any genuine public interest."