BBC seeks permission to challenge privacy ruling in favour of Cliff Richard

BBC seeks permission to challenge privacy ruling in favour of Cliff Richard

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Cliff Richard, Sexual Assault, South Yorkshire
Cliff Richard

BBC bosses are waiting to see whether a High Court judge will give them the go-ahead to challenge his ruling on a privacy fight with Cliff Richard.

The 77-year-old singer sued over BBC coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, following a child sex assault allegation.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Mann ruled in Mr Richard’s favour following a High Court trial in London.

The judge concluded that coverage was a “very serious” privacy invasion and awarded Mr Richard £210,000 damages.

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

BBC bosses have to get permission to appeal by showing that they have a realistic chance of overturning the ruling.

Either Mr Justice Mann or a Court of Appeal judge could give that permission.

Lawyers representing the BBC on Thursday began that process at a follow-up hearing in London.

They asked Mr Justice Mann to give the BBC the go-ahead to mount an appeal.
The judge is due to announce his decision in the next few hours.

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

Mr 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”.

Mr Millar told the judge: “The risk is a severe chilling effect on the freedom of the press in relation to reporting police investigations.”

He added: “We don’t go as far as to say you passed a law.”

Lawyers representing Mr Richard 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.”

Mr Justice Mann heard that, in late 2013, a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Mr Richard during an event featuring evangelist Billy Graham at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane football stadium in 1985, when he was a child.

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

Mr Richard denied the allegation.

He was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges.

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