Cliff Richard wins major privacy lawsuit against the BBC

Sir Cliff Richard has won a major privacy lawsuit against the BBC over its coverage of a police investigation into him.

Mr Justice Mann, sitting in the High Court in London, awarded £210,000 in damages, one of the largest-ever sums in this area of law.

Sir Cliff was represented by Gideon Benaim, partner and head of reputation protection at London-based Simkins, who led a team including fellow partner Jon Oakleyassociate Jessica Welch and trainee Thomas Moore.

Sir Cliff claimed that the BBC and the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) had violated his rights both in privacy and under the Data Protection Act 1998, which had “radically affected” his life and finances.

Mr Justice Mann held the BBC and SYP partly liable for part of the damages. Of the first £190,000 in damages, the BBC must pay 65 per cent and the SYP must pay 35 per cent. The remaining £20,000 in aggravated damages must be paid by the BBC alone.

SYP had already agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 as part of an earlier settlement with him, Mr Justice Mann noted.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Mann held that “an accused should at least prima facie have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of an investigation” and that the fact of a police search, without more, does not remove the legitimate expectation of privacy which otherwise exists.

In this case, the nature of the offence which was being investigated - an historic sex offence - reinforced the legitimate or reasonable expectation because of the damage that could be done if it were revealed, and made the legitimate expectation a strong one.

Although the judge acknowledged that there is “a very significant public interest in the fact of police investigations into historic sex abuse, including the fact that those investigations are pursued against those in public life”, he said the public interest did not exist “in this case”.

He added that the BBC’s use of a helicopter to broadcast footage of a police search of Sir Cliff’s home was “to add sensationalism”.

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