UK

Cliff Richard: BBC seeks leave to appeal High Court privacy judgement

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Media captionSir Cliff Richard v BBC - how did we get here?

The BBC is to seek permission to appeal a ruling over its coverage of a police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's home.

A high court judge ruled last week that the BBC infringed Sir Cliff's privacy in its reporting of the story in 2014, and awarded him £210,000 damages.

The raid was part of an investigation into historical child sex allegations - Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged.

The BBC argues the ruling could put press freedom at stake.

The broadcaster will later seek leave to appeal all of the main findings of law in Mr Justice Mann's judgment - although the judge is unlikely to grant an appeal against his own ruling.

BBC legal affairs correspondent, Clive Coleman, said that if he refuses, it will be up to the broadcaster to decide whether to go directly to the Court of Appeal - which he understands the corporation is "carefully considering".

The BBC wants to challenge the judge's findings, including that Sir Cliff had a right to privacy while a suspect in a police investigation - trumping the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression to publish his name and cover the raid.

It will also seek to appeal Sir Cliff's entitlement to damages for injury to his reputation in a privacy case, as opposed to a defamation claim.

The corporation will argue the £210,000 damages awarded will have a damaging effect on media outlets who are aware of a suspect's identity but who do not want to publish for fear of having to make a large payout.

The judge has yet to decide how much Sir Cliff was left out of pocket. The singer has said plans for his professional work were "seriously disrupted" and that he was left "in effect in creative limbo" for two years.

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Media captionSir Cliff Richard's lawyer said the singer "aimed to right a wrong"

At the ruling earlier this month, Mr Justice Mann said a suspect in a police investigation "has a reasonable expectation of privacy", and while Sir Cliff being investigated "might be of interest to the gossip-monger", there was not a "genuine public interest" case.

He also said that while the case could have a "significant impact on press reporting", it did not mean the law was changing or he was setting a precedent as the Human Rights Act already covers the issues at stake.

After the ruling last week, the BBC's director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth apologised to Sir Cliff and said: "In retrospect, there are things we would have done differently."

But, she said, the case marked a "significant shift" against press freedom and an "important principle" around the public's right to know was at stake.

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Media captionThe BBC's director of news said immediately after the ruling that the BBC was considering an appeal

Speaking to ITV afterwards, Sir Cliff said senior managers at the BBC have to "carry the can" for their actions, adding: "It's too big a decision to be made badly. It was nonsense."

"I want a correction made to what happened to me and it was made," he said. "Nobody said anything about freedom of speech.

"But I will fight to the death against the abuse of the freedom of speech [and] what the BBC did was an abuse.

"They took it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner."

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