South Yorkshire Police 'strong armed' into disclosing Cliff Richard information to BBC

South Yorkshire Police was 'strong armed' into handing over information about Sir Cliff Richard to the BBC, it has been claimed today.

Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 12:41 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:47 am
Sir Cliff

The claim was made in the High Court in London, where Sir Cliff is taking legal action against South Yorkshire Police and the BBC after details of child sex abuse allegations against him were made public.

Sir Cliff is seeking 'very substantial' damages over the way he claims his privacy was invaded and his reputation damaged when BBC cameras filmed police officers raiding his flat and he was named as a suspected sex offender.

South Yorkshire Police tipped off the BBC about the pre-planned raid of the entertainer's apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, after a reporter told the force he was aware of an investigation into the singer.

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A deal was struck that nothing about the police probe would be reported until after the raid.

High Court judge Mr Justice Mann heard today that the BBC denies the allegation that it 'strong armed' South Yorkshire Police into handing over information.

Detail of rival claims emerged at a preliminary hearing at the High Court today.

Lawyers representing Sir Cliff said in written submissions in October that he had suffered ''profound and long-lasting' damage.

They say he has sold the apartment which was raided because the prospect of living somewhere which had been 'so publicly violated' distressed him.

His legal team also claims the furore threw his 'creative and business plans' into disarray - and forced him to delay the release of an album of rock 'n' roll classics.

It is claimed he has run up lawyers' bills of more than £1 million.

In December a BBC spokeswoman said bosses would defend the coverage.

''As we have said on several occasions, we are very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard has suffered distress,'' she said.

''However, we have now submitted our response to this claim and will defend ourselves vigorously.''

She added: ''It is the BBC's responsibility to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest.''

In June, South Yorkshire Police apologised 'wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused' to Sir Cliff by the force's 'initial handling of the media interest' in its investigation into the singer.

A barrister representing Sir Cliff today outlined differing stances taken by South Yorkshire Police and the BBC.

"South Yorkshire Police's case is that they were effectively strong-armed into co-operating," said Justin Rushbrooke QC.

"The BBC say not so. All (a reporter) did was to say he knew that (Sir Cliff) was being investigated by South Yorkshire Police."

Mr Justice Mann was told that in late 2013, a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying that when he was a child he was sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at an event at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football stadium in 1985.

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

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

He claims South Yorkshire Police contravened guidance on 'relationships with the media'.