Sir Cliff Richard in legal bid to stop 'sensitive' private information being released in court following South Yorkshire Police raid at his home

Sir Cliff Richard is trying to stop information he claims is 'private and sensitive' from coming out in public during a High Court battle with the BBC over South Yorkshire Police's raid of his home.

Thursday, 15th March 2018, 8:20 am
Updated Thursday, 15th March 2018, 8:25 am
Sir Cliff Richard's lawyers are arguing information relating to sexual assault allegations against him should remain private

The British pop star has sued the BBC for covering the police raid at his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, back in August 2014, following allegations of sexual assault.

The 77-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing and was not charged with the offence, said that he suffered 'profound and long-lasting damage' as a result of the coverage.

The BBC said it would defend itself 'vigorously' in court for covering the search which was triggered when a man claimed the star had sexually assaulted him after a concert at Bramall Lane, in 1985.

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His case is due to go to the High Court in April.

Lawyers for the BBC said they would not agree to evidence being kept private during open court proceedings, claiming it was 'important and significant' that the evidence was put into the public domain.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, who is leading Sir Cliff's legal team, said five 'sensitive' passages in witness statements contained information about the police investigation into the singer which was not in the public domain.

He told the judge: 'What is contained within the paragraphs of these witness statements is plainly within the four corners of what we say is private information.

"This is the BBC holding itself up as the guardian of the public interest and saying the public is entitled to hear its full evidence."

He added: "It is plainly wrong to say they will get any less a fair trial from your Lordship if these passages, five in all, are withheld from public inspection."

Mr Rushbrooke said Sir Cliff was not asking the judge to sit in private.

Gavin Millar QC, who is leading the BBC's legal team, said the passages should be aired in open court.

"The passages in these witness statements are not part of an attack by the BBC," he said.

"These passages are there as part of the BBC's case."

He added: "We don't say we are the guardian of the public interest."

Mr Millar said the open justice principle should apply.

Lawyers said in late 2013, a man made an allegation to Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football stadium in Sheffield when he was a child in 1985.

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

Sir Cliff denied the allegation and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.

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

A spokesman for Cliff Richard said: "Sir Cliff wishes to make it clear that the few short passages that will be removed from the public versions of the witness statements simply contain details of the false allegation that gave rise to the police investigation which are not already in the public domain. Although the allegation is false, and did not lead to any action being taken by the CPS, it is something which has caused him a great deal of emotional trauma and pain, which is ongoing.

"The BBC made it clear that they were not suggesting that that allegation was true and that those details had not been put in the statements for that purpose."