The case of Sir Cliff Richard v BBC has begun. Whilst the opening day of trials of this nature are generally made up of opening submissions, they do give us a good idea of how the case will be run.
Back in August 2014, a helicopter filmed police officers raiding the pop singer’s Berkshire house. The raid was commenced following a claim of historic sexual assault. Whilst Sir Cliff was not charged with any offences, he is now suing the BBC on the basis that the raid caused “profound and long-lasting damage”. The case is made on the claim that the BBC’s reporting of the raid was an invasion of privacy, of which no lawful jurisdiction existed. The private information was the fact of the raid and the details of the same and this was then disclosed by the BBC all over the world.
Justin Rushbrook QC for Sir Cliff, stated in his opening submission: “No citizen should have to watch film footage broadcast on national and international television of police searching their home shot from a helicopter hovering just overhead … No citizen should have to learn from their friends that they are a person under investigation for a historic sex offence involving a child.”
Mr Rushbrook argued that because of the serious invasion of privacy Sir Cliff is entitled to substantial damages. But it’s not all about damages, Sir Cliff Richard is claiming £278,261 for legal fees, £108,500 for PR fees and a sum that is yet undisclosed for the now non-recoverable advance that was agreed for his autobiography.
On the other hand, Gavin Millar QC for the BBC, stated that Parliament has not restricted press reporting of investigations where such reporting is in the public interest. The defence is made up of the contention that the reporting was accurate, made in good faith and in the public interest.
It was explained to the court that the South Yorkshire Police had offered Sir Cliff Richard a sum of £400,000 plus legal fees, in addition to an apology and an acceptance that its conduct was unlawful.