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Breach of privacy: Sir Cliff Richard settles claim against South Yorkshire Police

Following a high-profile, televised police raid on his Berkshire home in 2014, Sir Cliff Richard issued claims against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police for the misuse of his private information, infringement of his Article 8 ECHR right to a private life, and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. In a recent hearing before Mr Justice Mann, Sir Cliff’s legal team stated that they had reached a settlement agreement with South Yorkshire Police and had agreed to stay proceedings against the BBC for one month in an attempt to reach a settlement.

In 2014, Sir Cliff’s home in Berkshire was raided by South Yorkshire Police.  A report had been made by an anonymous man to the Metropolitan Police in 2013 alleging that Sir Cliff had sexually assaulted him (when he was under 16) at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium in 1985.  The information was conveyed to South Yorkshire Police, who launched a two-year investigation.  Sir Cliff was never arrested by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service ultimately decided that not charges should be brought against him in 2016 (click here for Brett Wilson LLP’s commentary).

Sir Cliff has argued that the media attention surrounding the investigation caused him “profound and long-lasting harm” and that ‘his reputation has forever been tainted’.  The alleged harm predominantly stems from the the BBC's prime time television coverage of the raid of his home.  The Court heard that a correspondent working for the BBC had contacted South Yorkshire Police stating he knew about the investigation.  He subsequently met with the head of communications and the senior investigating officer.  According to Sir Cliff and South Yorkshire Police, because the correspondent was already in a position to broadcast a story naming Sir Cliff as the subject of an investigation, the police decided to cooperate to protect the integrity of their investigation.

It was reported in the High Court on 26 May 2017, before Mr Justice Mann, that South Yorkshire Police and Sir Cliff had come to settlement terms and that the police force had agreed to pay Sir Cliff substantial damages.  South Yorkshire Police additionally stated in open court that they apologised ‘wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused’ by the force’s dealings with the media and handling of the subsequent publications.

The BBC, however, state that they are ‘vigorously’ defending themselves against Sir Cliff’s claim.  In short, they believe that Sir Cliff did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the investigation, and that, in any event, their coverage was in the public interest.  They state that they reported Sir Cliff’s ‘full denial of the allegations at every stage’.  Nevertheless, it was reported to Mr Justice Mann that an agreement had been reached that the claim be stayed for a month, for the purpose of settlement negotiations between the parties.

In the event that negotiations are ultimately unsuccessful, the final costs of the action are likely to be substantial, with it having been reported that Sir Cliff’s pre-action costs may have totalled as much as £900,000.

Click here to see how Brett Wilson LLP can assist if you are considering issuing a claim for the misuse of your private information.


Legal Disclaimer

Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.