The trial in the case of Sir Cliff Richard v BBC began today before Mr Justice Mann in Court 15 of the Rolls Building. The day was taken up with the opening submissions of Justin Rushbrooke QC for Sir Cliff and Gavin Millar QC for the BBC.
Sir Cliff’s case is that the BBC’s coverage of the search was a very serious invasion of his privacy for which there was no lawful justification. The fact and details of the investigation which the BBC published were private information and there was no public interest it is disclosure to millions around the world.
Mr Rushbrooke told the court
“No citizen should have to watch film footage broadcast on national and international television of police searching their home shot from a helicopter hovering just overhead … No citizen should have to learn from their friends that they are a person under investigation for a historic sex offence involving a child.”
It was argued that, as a result of this unlawful invasion of his privacy and of breaches of his data protection rights Sir Cliff was entitled to very substantial damages including aggravated damages to reflect the flagrant way in which the BBC went about breaching his rights.
In addition to his general damages claim Sir Cliff seeks £278,261 for legal costs as damages, £108,500 for PR fees and an undisclosed sum for the “substantial non-recoverable advance” which had been agreed for his autobiography which had been due to be published in late 2015.
The Court will hear evidence in support of the claim from Sir Cliff, Phil Hall and Neil McLeod of PHA Media, Sir Cliff’s public relations advisors, Paul Morris of BCL Solicitors (who will deal with his attendance at Sir Cliff’s apartment on the day of raid), Gideon Benaim of Simkins LLP (who will deal with the notice that the BBC gave of their intended broadcast), Malcolm Smith, Sir Cliff’s Business Manager and Philip Daval-Bowden of Masters Legal Costs Services (who will deal with the legal costs aspects of the damages claim), Detective Superintendent Matthew Fenwick and Carrie Goodwin of the South Yorkshire Police.
The BBC’s case was opened briefly by Mr Millar. He said that Parliament has never restricted press reporting of police investigations which reflects a general consensus that reporting on such matters is in the public interest. It defends o the claim, in essence, on the basis that its reporting of the search was accurate and in good faith and was on a matter of legitimate public interest. It was said that the reporting “fully respected the presumption of innocence”
The allegation being investigated was one of a serious criminal offence. Information that enabled the BBC to report these matters had been provided to it by the investigating police force knowing that it would be used by the BBC to report in this way.
The Court was told at the hearing the South Yorkshire Police had agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 and his legal fees as well as apologising and accepting that their conduct was unlawful.
The court will not sit on Friday morning but Sir Cliff is expected to begin giving evidence on Friday afternoon.