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BBC agrees to pay Sir Cliff Richard legal bills but denied permission to appeal High Court privacy ruling

The BBC has been denied permission to appeal against the High Court privacy ruling made in favour of Sir Cliff Richard last week.

Sir Cliff sued the BBC over its coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, following an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a boy some years ago.

The singer was never arrested or charged and the case was later dropped.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Mann ruled in Sir Cliff’s favour following a trial.

In court today the judge said an appeal did not have a real prospect of success and added that there was no other compelling reason why Court of Appeal judges should consider the case.

Barrister Gavin Millar QC, who leads the BBC legal team, had argued issues raised in the case meant there was a “compelling reason” for an appeal to be heard.

Millar said the ruling had implications for journalists and an appeal had a “real prospect” of success.

He said the damages award was “wrong in law” and would have a “chilling effect”.

He added: “The risk is a severe chilling effect on the freedom of the press in relation to reporting police investigations. We don’t go as far as to say you passed a law.”

Lawyers representing Sir Cliff said the BBC should not get permission to appeal.

Barrister Justin Rushbrooke QC, who leads Sir Cliff’s legal team, said Mr Justice Mann had applied the law to the facts.

“What your lordship has done is faithfully and painfully apply the law to the facts of this case,” he told the judge.

“It is about time the BBC took a realistic view of this matter.”

After the hearing, the BBC said it was still considering the best way to move forward.

It could still apply directly to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.

A spokesperson said: “This is a complex case and while we hadn’t decided on whether to pursue an appeal, we sought permission today in order to keep all options open.

“We reiterate that we are very sorry to Sir Cliff for the distress caused and have no desire to prolong this case unnecessarily, but the ruling has raised significant questions for press freedom and we are considering the best way to address these.”

Earlier today the BBC agreed to pay lawyers’ bills run up by Sir Cliff during the privacy dispute.

Rushbrooke did not give an overall figure but said BBC bosses had agreed to pay £850,000 on account.

Sir Cliff told the trial he had spent more than £3m on the case.

Millar said it was “appropriate” for the BBC to pay legal costs incurred by Sir Cliff relating to issues determined as a result of a trial earlier this year.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Mann concluded that BBC coverage was a “very serious” privacy invasion and awarded the 77-year-old £210,000 damages.

He said the award would be made up of £190,000 to cover the “general effect” coverage had on Sir Cliff’s life – plus £20,000 because the BBC had aggravated harm by nominating its coverage for an award.

The judge has yet to decide how badly Sir Cliff was left out of pocket.

Sir Cliff had told him that plans for “professional work” had been “seriously disrupted” and he said he had been left “in effect in creative limbo” for two years as a result of the BBC’s coverage.

Lawyers say the amount the judge awards to compensate for financial loss could be much more than £210,000.

During the trial Mr Justice Mann was told that, in late 2013, a man told the Metropolitan Police that in 1985, when he was a child he was sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff during an event featuring evangelist Billy Graham at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane football stadium.

Metropolitan Police officers passed the allegation to South Yorkshire Police in July 2014.

Sir Cliff, who has consistently denied the allegation, was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges.

Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Comments

9 thoughts on “BBC agrees to pay Sir Cliff Richard legal bills but denied permission to appeal High Court privacy ruling”

  1. The information was factually accurate, and it was already in the public domain. If the judge had limited his criticism to the use of the helicopter, that would be reasonable. But the judge ruled that the BBC was wrong to identify Cliff Richard. Banning the identification of Cliff Richard would effectively mean banning the publication of the address that was raided, because that could create a jigsaw identification. So that in turn amounts to a legal ban on reporting on prominent police activity in a public area, in full view of hundreds, or thousands, of members of the public. That is an outrageous, indefensible, precedent-setting attack on the freedom of the press – not to mention ludicrous and illogical.

    Dozens of police officers had just swarmed Cliff Richard’s property, which is located in a large apartment building with lots of other tenants, who therefore were immediately alerted to the fact that the property had been raided. It wasn’t difficult to spot – a load of people in forensic suits carrying items out of Richard’s property in evidence bags and putting them into police cars. Not only were all the tenants of the building immediately alerted to the raid by this rather obvious police activity, but so were other people in the community whose properties were located nearby, or overlooked the car park outside the building, or even just people who had cause to walk or drive past while it was happening.

    Hundreds of people within the community had immediate knowledge of the raid. Within an hour, that would have become thousands of people. By the end of the day, it would have been all over social media. So the judge’s ridiculous ruling is that extremely obvious police activity, carried out in full view of the public, cannot be reported on – even though everyone else would be able to find out what was going on within a few hours, just by looking on Twitter.

    That is an indefensible disgrace and a truly frightening precedent. Refusing to allow the BBC an appeal is even more despicable.

  2. The BBC and South Yorkshire Police are an utter disgrace. I thought so at the time of the publicised raid, and even more so now. Nor do I remotely believe them when they say they are sorry. Could some people now be publicly fired, in order to experience a tiny modicum of the humiliation that Cliff Richard had to suffer? Without their publicly funded organisations to hide behind, they might just begin to understand what ‘sorry’ really means.

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