Cliff Richard Wins BBC Privacy Case Over Coverage Of Police Raid

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Cliff Richard arrives at Wimbledon Tennis for Men's Final Day on July 15, 2018 in London.

The broadcaster has been ordered to pay $270,000 in damages.

Veteran British pop star Sir Cliff Richard has won his high-profile legal fight against the BBC over its coverage of a 2014 police raid on his home. 

The 77-year-old singer, who was knighted in 1995 and is one of Britain's biggest-selling recording artists, had sued the broadcaster for "invasion of privacy" after it reported he was being investigated over historic child sex assault claims. 

Richard was never arrested or charged with any offence. Ruling in his favour, High Court judge Mr Justice Mann said that the BBC – which had received an advance police tip-off about the raids and flew a helicopter over the singer's home to film them taking place - had infringed Sir Cliff's privacy rights in a "serious" and "somewhat sensationalist" way.

He awarded Richard an initial £210,000 ($270,000) in damages, a sum that includes £20,000 in aggravated damages after the BBC submitted its coverage of the story for a ‘scoop of the year' award. The BBC has defended its actions as being in the "public interest" and said it is considering an appeal.    

Further damages relating to the financial impact on the artist's career, including cancelled live concerts or postponed music releases, are still to be assessed. 

Richard says he has spent over £3 million ($3.9 million) bringing the legal case against the BBC. Last year, he agreed a settlement with South Yorkshire Police, who carried out the raids, for £400,000 ($520,000). 

The singer was in court to hear today's verdict and is reported to have cried with relief when the ruling was announced. 

Speaking outside the court, a visibly moved Richard said that he was unable to answer any questions from the media and that it was "going to take a little while for me to get over the whole emotional factor. I hope you'll forgive me." 

A representative of his legal team said the ruling "clearly confirms that individuals including high profile ones have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to police investigations." 

He went to say that the last four years had a "profound" impact on the singer, who had "never expected after 60 years in the public eye that his privacy and reputation would be tarnished in this way and that he would need to fight such a battle."  

A number of Richard's fans were also outside the London court building and sang the chorus from his 1968 hit "Congratulations" following the verdict. 

In a statement, BBC director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth apologised for "the distress that Sir Cliff has been through" and conceded "on reflection there are things we would have done differently," but cautioned that the judgement "represents a dramatic shift against press freedom."  

"This impacts not just the BBC, but every media organisation," warned Unsworth. "It means police investigations, and searches of people's homes, could go unreported and unscrutinised. It will make it harder to scrutinise the conduct of the police and we fear it will undermine the wider principle of the public's right to know. It will put decision-making in the hands of the police. We don't believe this is compatible with liberty and press freedoms; something that has been at the heart of this country for generations."