A court in London awarded singer Cliff Richard £210,000 (Rs 1.88 crore) in damages on Wednesday in a case he had filed against the BBC. In 2014, the broadcaster had telecast live a police raid on Richard’s home in connection with child sexual abuse allegations.
Richard, who was away on holiday at the time, claimed that the story had breached his privacy. The prosecutors also failed to find any evidence against him.
The broadcaster infringed Richard’s privacy rights “without a legal justification” and “in a somewhat sensationalist way”, said Justice Anthony Mann. “I have rejected the BBC’s case that it was justified in reporting as it did under its rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the judge added.
He awarded Richard £190,000 in damages and a further £20,000 in aggravated damages for the broadcaster’s decision to nominate the story for a “scoop of the year” award. The BBC will pay 65% of the £190,000, and the South Yorkshire Police, which conducted the raid, will pay 35%.
The BBC said the ruling was a severe blow to media freedom and that it would appeal the decision.
“This judgement creates new case law and represents a dramatic shift against press freedom and the long-standing ability of journalists to report on police investigations,” said Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs. “It means police investigations, and searches of people’s homes, could go unreported and unscrutinised.”
Unsworth, however, apologised to Richard and said there were elements of the coverage that should have been handled differently, The Guardian reported.