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Sir Cliff Richard suffered 'profound' damage after named as sex offender suspect

Published 26/10/2016

Sir Cliff Richard has launched legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police
Sir Cliff Richard has launched legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police

Sir Cliff Richard has suffered "profound and long-lasting" damage after being publicly named as a suspected sex offender, lawyers say.

The singer has sued the BBC and South Yorkshire Police in the wake of publicity about a police raid on his home - and says the BBC added "insult to injury" by entering its coverage in a "Scoop of the Year" journalism contest.

Detail of Sir Cliff's complaints have emerged in paperwork lodged by his lawyers at the High Court in London pending the start of any court hearings.

Lawyers say Sir Cliff has sold the apartment which was raided because the prospect of living somewhere which had been "so publicly violated" distressed him.

They say 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".

And they say he has already run up more than £1 million in lawyers' bills.

South Yorkshire Police said on Wednesday that bosses had apologised to the singer for distress and anxiety caused.

Sir Cliff's lawyers have filed written "particulars of claim" at the High Court.

Paperwork shows that the 76-year-old singer is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police in the wake of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

He is alleging that his privacy was invaded and wants "very substantial" damages.

Lawyers say the BBC broadcast a "major story" on the day of the raid after making an agreement with South Yorkshire Police.

They say South Yorkshire Police contravened guidance on "relationships with the media".

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

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

Sir Cliff had denied the allegation "as soon as it was brought to his attention", and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.

The particulars of claim have been written by barristers Justin Rushbrooke QC and Godwin Busuttil.

They name "Sir Cliff Richard, OBE" as the claimant and the BBC and the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police as defendants.

"The damage to the claimant has been profound and long-lasting," the 26-page document says.

"He had to endure nearly two years of living with the stigma of having been as under investigation for an alleged historic sex offence, and the anxiety of knowing that this was a matter of public knowledge."

The document adds: "The BBC has added insult to injury by adamantly refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing."

Lawyers said the BBC had "sought to defend its conduct" on a "manifestly unsustainable basis".

They said a "purported apology" had been "too little, too late".

The particulars of claim add: "In early 2015, the BBC added yet further insult to injury, and knowingly caused the claimant yet further distress and embarrassment, by submitting its broadcast coverage to the Royal Television Society's Television Journalism annual awards, in the category of 'Scoop of the Year'."

Lawyers said the BBC's coverage had a number of consequences.

"The claimant put up for sale, and eventually sold, his apartment, so distressing to him was the prospect of having to live in a home the privacy of which had been so publicly violated by reason of the broadcast of the search," said the particulars of claim.

"He was forced to delay the release of an album of Rock 'n' Roll classics ... This in turn delayed the recording and release of an album of Christmas songs."

The document added: "He was forced to shelve the production and publication of a revised edition of his book 'My Life, My Way'."

Lawyers said Sir Cliff had "incurred very substantial losses", paying for lawyers and "PR agents" to deal with the "consequences of the coverage".

They added: "The claimant's total legal costs since 14 August 2014 ... are approximately £894,852 ... plus VAT of £176,788".

Sir Cliff's lawyers said police told a BBC reporter that "the search warrant would be executed the following morning".

A camera crew was waiting when police arrived and a helicopter hovering.

Lawyers said that at the moment officers had entered Sir Cliff's home, a police press officer had sent a text to a BBC reporter saying: "Going in now Dan".

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