Saturday 1 October 2016

Sir Cliff Richard sues BBC and police over apartment raid coverage

Published 10/07/2016 | 00:11

Sir Cliff Richard's apartment in Berkshire was searched by police in August 2014
Sir Cliff Richard's apartment in Berkshire was searched by police in August 2014

Sir Cliff Richard has said his life was "effectively turned upside down" as he confirmed he was suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over live coverage of a police raid at his home.

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The entertainer confirmed in a statement he has instructed his lawyers to make formal legal complaints to determine whether or not the actions of the broadcaster and police was "justified and proportionate".

Officers investigating allegations of historic sex offences were filmed searching Sir Cliff's apartment in Berkshire in August 2014, leading to him being publicly named as part of the probe. The 75-year-old was never arrested or charged.

The Crown Prosecution Service dismissed the case on grounds of insufficient evidence in June and both the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have apologised to the star.

Sir Cliff called for police to follow guidelines in not naming suspects before they were charged save for "exceptional circumstances".

He said: "I chose not to comment during the active investigation for obvious reasons, but having suffered the experience that I have, I firmly believe that privacy should be respected and that police guidelines are there to be followed.

"That means that, save in exceptional circumstances, people should never be named unless and until they are charged. As everybody has accepted there were no such "exceptional circumstances" in my case."

According to the Daily Mail, the claim is worth £1 million and reflects damage he suffered personally and commercially as a result of the episode.

It is understood Sir Cliff developed a cough which affected his touring schedule, an album release had to be delayed, sales of his popular calendars were affected and his winery business suffered.

Sir Cliff said the issue of whether the actions were justified or not was "important not only for me personally but much more widely".

He added: "My life was effectively turned upside down and my reputation, worldwide, was unnecessarily damaged. I would not want the same to happen to others whether in the public eye or not."

"Whilst the police of course need to properly investigate allegations made to them, it is clear to me that questions need to be answered by both the police and the BBC about their initial handling of my matter, which has rightly been condemned from so many quarters, including the Home Affairs Select Committee, the broader press, and, even the police themselves."

The BBC, whose relationship with Sir Cliff stretches back decades, declined to comment. It previously said it was "very sorry" for causing the singer distress.

Last weekend Sir Cliff met with former Commons deputy speaker and Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans in a bid to change the law to protect the anonymity of those accused of sexual assault and rape.

In 2014 a jury unanimously found Mr Evans not guilty of nine sexual allegations, including one of rape, following a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.

In a statement released on June 21 the BBC said it "applied normal editorial judgments" to covering the story, but added: "The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress.

"The BBC's responsibility is 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, which is why they have been reported by all news organisations in this country.

"Once the South Yorkshire Police had confirmed the investigation and Sir Cliff Richard's identity and informed the BBC of the timing and details of the search of his property, it would neither have been editorially responsible nor in the public interest to choose not to report fully the investigation into Sir Cliff Richard because of his public profile.

"The BBC, at every stage, reported Sir Cliff's full denial of the allegations.

"The BBC, therefore, stands by the decision to report the investigation undertaken by the South Yorkshire Police and the search of his property."

Press Association

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