Cliff Richard: BBC raid report ‘shocking and upsetting’

Image copyright

Image caption

Sir Cliff Richard arrived at the High Court with broadcaster Gloria Hunniford

Sir Cliff Richard has broken down in court as he described the “shocking and upsetting” BBC television coverage of a police raid on his home in 2014.

He is suing the BBC over privacy and said in a witness statement his health suffered “mentally and physically”.

South Yorkshire Police searched the singer’s Berkshire apartment after a claim of historical sexual assault.

Sir Cliff, 77, was not charged with any offence. The BBC says its coverage was in the public interest.

Lawyers for Sir Cliff said the BBC report – including shots taken from a helicopter showing officers searching his property – caused him “profound and long-lasting damage”.

‘Forever tainted’

Giving evidence for more than an hour at the High Court, Sir Cliff recalled watching the BBC footage of the August 2014 raid from a hotel in Portugal.

He said: “It wasn’t a very pleasant feeling and by that time I had heard of the allegation and seeing it made me feel even worse.”

In his written statement, he said: “It was shocking and upsetting.”

He added: “My health suffered, both mentally and physically…

“At one point … I actually thought I was going to have a heart attack or stroke.”

He added: “I felt as though everything I had worked for during my life – trying to live as honestly and honourably as I could – was being torn apart.

“I felt forever tainted. I still do.”

‘Knot in my stomach’

Sir Cliff added he “never felt right” in the 22 months it took for prosecutors to say they were not “going to be taking further action”.

“During the day there was an ever-present knot in my stomach,” he said.

“I’d wake up in the middle of the night, going over things in my head again and again.”

Image copyright
Julia Quenzler

Image caption

Sir Cliff gave evidence for more than an hour

He added he lost a “considerable amount” of weight and felt unable to return to the Sunninghill property “except to pack up my belongings”.

“In my mind it had become contaminated,” his statement said. “I didn’t feel comfortable there any longer.

“I have in fact been burgled before, and this for me was a worse experience.”

Sir Cliff broke down when being questioned by the BBC’s barrister Gavin Millar QC.

He said: “Everywhere I have ever been, I felt my name was smeared. The police didn’t do that, the BBC did.”

Sir Cliff said to date the case had cost him £3.4m including spending on lawyers and other representatives.

He is suing the BBC for the misuse of private information and breaking data protection rules.

His lawyers say he is seeking “very substantial” damages or compensation for the breach of his rights.

‘Legitimate interest’

The court has heard BBC journalist Dan Johnson had received a tip-off about the investigation from a Metropolitan Police source working in Operation Yewtree, the probe into allegations of historical sex offences.

The Met Police later passed the allegation, a claim of a sexual offence against a boy under the age of 16, to South Yorkshire Police.

Jason Beer QC, for South Yorkshire Police, which has paid the singer £400,000 to settle a privacy claim, told the court the BBC broadcast caused the most “damage”.

He accused Mr Johnson of using “heavy-handed” tactics when dealing with officers from the force ahead of the raid.

Lawyers representing the BBC have told the judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Mann, that the police raid was of “legitimate public interest”.

They said the BBC had been given information about an investigation into a serious criminal offence and had a duty to pass on the information to the public.

Mr Millar for the BBC said its journalists had respected Sir Cliff’s rights as a “suspect” and the “presumption of innocence”.

Addressing the court on the first day of the hearing, he said “you have to focus on that point… at which the BBC publish the information and ask whether Sir Cliff had a reasonable expectation of privacy?

“He may have wanted that. But that would not have been a reasonable expectation for somebody in his position.”