'Mistakes were made' say South Yorkshire Police after £400,000 out-of court settlement with Sir Cliff Richard

South Yorkshire Police have said 'mistakes were made' after they agreed to pay Sir Cliff Richard an out-of-court settlement of £400,000 in relation to a raid on his home.

Friday, 13th April 2018, 9:37 pm
Updated Friday, 13th April 2018, 9:56 pm
Sir Cliff Richard.

The figure was revealed yesterday as part of the singer's legal action against the BBC over their coverage of the raid, which took place in 2014.

Sir Cliff is suing the corporation for a breach of privacy over the way the raid was televised live and he was named as a suspect in a sexual assault investigation.

The investigation was launched after a man contacted the Metropolitan Police earlier that year to claim he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at a Christian concert in Sheffield when he was a boy.

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When asked for a response to the settlement figure, a spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police today said they wished to 'refer directly to the statement given in open court in May 2017'.

This statement read: "South Yorkshire Police recognised its actions facilitated the BBC’s coverage, which caused significant distress to Sir Cliff Richard.

"We accepted that mistakes were made in our attempts to balance the rights of the complainant and the integrity of the investigation, together with the rights of Sir Cliff Richard.

"In view of this, it was right to acknowledge and resolve any dispute at the earliest opportunity and by doing so minimise any further financial impact on the force given the size of the claim advanced by Sir Cliff Richard, which included significant elements of financial losses and the associated costs of the action."

The BBC learned of the allegation and struck a deal with South Yorkshire Police over when the story would run in return for details of when and where the raid would take place.

The force gave the BBC a running commentary on the day of the raid so that the police operation could be filmed, with the use of a helicopter hovering above Sir Cliff's apartment in Berkshire.

Sir Cliff was due to give evidence in London's High Court today as part of his legal action.

His lawyers claim that the singer should get compensation from the BBC at the 'very top end of the scale' because the corporation's coverage of the police raid caused him 'great damage'.

Sir Cliff, who denied the allegation of sexual assault and was not charged with any offence, says he suffered 'profound and long-lasting damage' as a result of coverage.

BBC editors have said they will 'defend ourselves vigorously'.

A barrister leading Sir Cliff's legal team told Mr Justice Mann that BBC coverage of the search at the singer's apartment was a 'very serious invasion' of privacy.

Justin Rushbrooke QC told how coverage had a 'prolonged impact' on the singer.

He did not give any indication of the amount Sir Cliff wants.

But Mr Justice Mann heard that the singer had already agreed to accept a £400,000 payment from South Yorkshire Police and a contribution towards his legal costs.

"We think it is hard to imagine a case of publicity about a suspect in a police investigation which could have caused greater damage to the autonomy and dignity of the claimant," said Mr Rushbrooke.

"When you look at the prolonged impact it had upon Sir Cliff's life.

"We say this is a claim for an award at the very top end of the scale."

A BBC spokesman has said that the corporation had reported Sir Cliff's 'full denial of the allegations at every stage'.

"In a nutshell, it is Sir Cliff's case that the BBC's coverage of the search was an invasion - indeed a very serious invasion - of his privacy for which there was no lawful justification," Mr Rushbrooke told the judge.

"The fact and the details of the investigation which the BBC published to the world at large, along with the video footage of his apartment being searched, were private information and there was no public interest in the disclosure of this information to the millions of viewers and website readers around the world to whom it was published.

"For strong public policy reasons, persons who are under investigation but have not been charged with any offence should not be publicly named other that in exceptional circumstances - circumstances which were not present in this case.

"Moreover, even if there had been some public interest in the fact that the claimant was under investigation, the way that the BBC went about publishing the 'story' was so disproportionate, and so intrusive, as to render it unlawful."

He said Sir Cliff was entitled to 'very substantial' damages or compensation to reflect the 'flagrant way' the BBC went about 'breaching his rights'.

Mr Rushbrooke said the BBC had used a helicopter, said the broadcasts and other publications were on any view 'hugely intrusive', and spoke of 'massive, massive coverage'.

He added: "It is hard to encapsulate in words the sense of panic and powerlessness that must have been induced in him on August 14 2014 when he realised that the BBC were relaying instantaneously and indiscriminately around the world highly sensitive and damaging information concerning himself - all based upon an allegation of serious criminal conduct which he knew to be entirely false."

Mr Rushbrooke said Sir Cliff had been left with 'no option' but to take legal action and told the judge: "What we are talking about is using TV cameras to spy into someone's home at the time when their target is in the most vulnerable position imaginable and then serve it up to the British public as the most sensational story imaginable."

He went on: "The coverage had a profound and continuing impact on upon almost every aspect of his life."