BBC editors say they will “defend ourselves vigorously” after being sued by Cliff Richard over reports naming him as a suspected sex offender.
They say it is the BBC’s “responsibility” to report stories that are in the public interest – and they say police investigations into prominent public figures are “squarely” in the public interest.
Bosses today spelled out their stance after lawyers lodged a defence to the 76-year-old singer’s damages claims at the High Court in London.
Richard has taken legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police in the wake of coverage of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
His lawyers say he suffered “profound and long-lasting” damage.
They say he has sold the apartment which was raided because the prospect of living somewhere which had been “so publicly violated” distressed him.
They say the furore threw his “creative and business plans” into disarray – and forced him to delay the release of an album of “rock ‘n’ roll classics.” And they say he has run up more than £1m in lawyers’ bills.
Detail of Richard’s complaints had emerged in October in paperwork lodged by his lawyers at the High Court.
But a BBC spokesman said bosses would defend coverage.
“As we have said on several occasions, we are very sorry that Cliff Richard has suffered distress,” she said.
“However, we have now submitted our response to this claim and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
She added: “It is the BBC’s responsibility to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest.”
The spokeswoman said “at every stage” the BBC had reported Richard’s “full denial of the allegations”.