No reasonable expectation for Cliff Richard not to be named, says BBC

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Lawyers representing the BBC have told a High Court judge that Sir Cliff Richard had no “reasonable expectation” of not being named as the suspect in a police child sex assault investigation.

Gavin Millar QC, leading the BBC’s legal team, told Mr Justice Mann on Tuesday that Sir Cliff might have “hoped” not to be identified, but could not have reasonably expected to have remained anonymous.

Mr Justice Mann is listening to closing arguments from lawyers representing all sides at a High Court trial in London.

He finished analysing evidence last month.

He has told Mr Justice Mann that coverage, which involved the use of a helicopter, was a “very serious invasion” of his privacy.

The BBC disputes his claims. Bosses say coverage of the search of the apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was accurate and in good faith.

The judge has heard how 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 stadium as a child in 1985.

Metropolitan Police officers passed the allegation to South Yorkshire Police in July 2014.

A man alleged he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium
A man alleged he was sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium (Dave Howarth/Empics)

A BBC spokesman has said the BBC reported Sir Cliff’s “full denial of the allegations at every stage”.

“Did (Sir Cliff) have a reasonable expectation that he would not be identified as the person being investigated in any reporting by the BBC?” said Mr Millar.

“The short answer is that he did not.”

He said the arrests of other prominent figures in the entertainment industry had been reported in the two years before August 2014.

“Sir Cliff might have hoped not to be identified,” added Mr Millar. “But looked at objectively, he could not really expect to be anonymised.”

Lawyers representing Sir Cliff told the judge the singer might have suffered permanent damage to his self-esteem as a result of the BBC coverage.

Mr Justice Mann has heard that South Yorkshire Police have already agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 after settling a claim he brought against the force.

The singer initially sued the BBC and South Yorkshire Police after complaining about coverage of the raid.

Barrister Jason Beer QC, who is leading the force’s legal team, told the judge in a written closing submission on Tuesday: “South Yorkshire Police accepts its conduct was unlawful and was the cause of damage to (Sir Cliff). But it was the conduct of the BBC that caused most of the damage, and it was the BBC that was most blameworthy.”

Sir Cliff was not at Tuesday’s hearing.

The trial is due to end on Wednesday.

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