Sir Cliff Richard to continue pursuit of BBC following settlement with police
Sir Cliff Richard is to centre his attention on a High Court fight with the BBC after settling a dispute with a police force, lawyers say.
The 76-year-old singer sued the BBC and South Yorkshire Police following reports naming him as a suspected sex offender.
But the singer’s lawyers have told a judge that South Yorkshire Police have agreed to pay substantial damages.
They say Sir Cliff will now focus on bringing his claim against the BBC to trial as quickly as possible.
BBC bosses have said they will “defend ourselves vigorously”.
They say they have a responsibility to report news stories that are in the public interest and South Yorkshire Police’s decision to settle does not alter that “fundamental principle”.
Sir Cliff launched legal action over coverage of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
He has alleged misuse of private information, infringement of his human right to respect for private life and a breach of data protection legislation.
A judge overseeing litigation has been told that in late 2013 a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane football stadium when a child in 1985.
Metropolitan Police officers passed the allegation to South Yorkshire Police in July 2014.
Sir Cliff had denied the allegation and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.
A barrister leading Sir Cliff’s legal team told Mr Justice Mann on Friday the singer was no longer pursuing his claim against South Yorkshire Police as a result of bosses’ decision to pay damages to compensate for “unlawful” conduct.
Justin Rushbrooke QC said South Yorkshire Police should not have made disclosures about the investigation into Sir Cliff to the BBC and should not have co-operated with the BBC in the way that they did.
He said the claim against the BBC had not been resolved.
A BBC spokeswoman said, in the wake of Sir Cliff’s settlement with police, that editors felt there had been a duty to report the investigation into the singer.
“We’ve said throughout that the BBC’s responsibility is to report news stories that are in the public interest,” she said.
“Against the extensive disclosure of historic child sexual abuse by figures of high public prominence, we consider that the report into the investigation into Sir Cliff for such an offence, and the decision by police to search his premises was such a news story and that the BBC had a duty to report it.”
She added: “The police decision to settle the claim against them by Sir Cliff because of how they handled the investigation doesn’t change the fundamental principle that journalistic organisations should be able to report on the police and police investigations into individuals.
“A search happened, and because it did, the BBC reported it – just as any other media organisation would have and did.”