Artist News Legal Media

Cliff Richard’s lawsuit could cost BBC and South Yorkshire Police £1.5 million

By | Published on Wednesday 26 October 2016

Cliff Richard

Cliff Richard claims that South Yorkshire Police “knowingly facilitated” the broadcast of a news story on the BBC that was “highly intrusive” and which caused him “serious and irremediable damage”.

These are the specific words used in the singer’s previously reported lawsuit against the police force and the broadcaster – which has now been seen by The Sun – and which is seeking a payment of up to £1.5 million, much of which would cover Richard’s legal and PR costs to date.

As previously reported, the legal action is over the BBC’s coverage of a police raid on Richard’s home in Berkshire in 2014, which related to allegations of sexual abuse that had been against the singer.

Although four men ultimately made allegations of past abuse against the star, earlier this year the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution. And at no point was Richard arrested or charged with any offences.

His litigation runs through the events that led up to the BBC’s filming of the raid on his home, much of which we already knew via past statements from both South Yorkshire Police and the BBC. The filming of the police action was criticised at the time, of course, and was discussed by the parliamentary select committee on home affairs.

The lawsuit says that BBC journalist Dan Johnson approached the police force before the raid on Richard’s home saying that he already knew about the investigation into allegations made against the singer. Johnson then threatened to run a story on said investigation before any search of the singer’s property could be conducted, which basically “strong-armed” the police into giving the Beeb exclusive coverage of the subsequent raid, says the legal filing.

A deal was then agreed between officers and the BBC which was signed off by the force’s then Chief Constable David Crompton. Richard’s litigation strongly criticises this decision, saying that “no attempt” was made to actually stop the BBC from running its story instead of just agreeing a deal on coverage.

The lawsuit then presents various messages obtained by the singer’s lawyers which were exchanged between police officers and Johnson as preparations for the raid on Richard’s home got underway.

This includes a message confirming the time and the location of the raid, with a photo of the property attached. On the day, text messages between a police press officer and the Beeb include one from the former saying “going in now, Dan”, and then a reply stating: “Give me a shout before they take anything out, so we can get the chopper in place for a shot”.

Richard says that the live coverage of the raid on his home became a global news story that forced him to cancel two album releases and a new book, throwing his “creative and business plans” into “disarray”. He is seeking at least £200,000 in damages, as well as looking for the police and the BBC to cover much of the legal and PR costs he has incurred since the raid, the former of which alone top £1 million.

The BBC has defended its coverage throughout, insisting the report didn’t breach either Richard’s privacy rights or its own editorial guidelines. Meanwhile the aforementioned Home Affairs Select Committee concluded that the BBC did not act improperly.

Richard does not agree, accusing the Corporation of “unlawful conduct” that caused him “enormous damage (including reputational damage), distress, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety and upset, entitling him to very substantial damages”.

It remains to be seen how the courts view the matter.