BBC protest as Cliff Richard runs up £500,000 legal bill in court battle

BBC bosses say Sir Cliff Richard has spent 'grossly unreasonable' amounts on lawyers after complaining about reports naming him as a suspected sex offender and taking legal action.

Sir Cliff Richard

They say figures show the singer has already run up legal costs of more than £500,000 which are on “on any view ... disproportionate”.

Sir Cliff has taken legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over coverage of a raid at his apartment in August 2014.

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Lawyers representing the BBC made the criticism as a judge analysed the latest stage of the dispute at a High Court hearing in London today.

File photo dated 29/6/2016 of Sir Cliff Richard as a High Court judge is preparing to analyse a dispute between the singer and the BBC. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 28, 2017. The singer has sued the BBC over reports naming him as a suspected sex offender.

The singer has sued the BBC over reports naming him as a suspected sex offender and wants damages.

BBC editors have said they will “defend ourselves vigorously”.

Detail of Sir Cliff’s claim emerged last year in paperwork lodged at the High Court by lawyers.

Mr Justice Mann is overseeing the latest in a series of preliminary hearings in London.

File photo dated 29/6/2016 of Sir Cliff Richard as a High Court judge is preparing to analyse a dispute between the singer and the BBC. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 28, 2017. The singer has sued the BBC over reports naming him as a suspected sex offender.

Sir Cliff was not at the hearing which is due to end tomorrow.

“The claimant’s budget shows pre-action costs of £525,437, including 1,287 hours of solicitors’ time,” Gavin Millar QC, who heads the BBC’s legal team, told the judge in a written submission.

“Though not without its legal complexities, this case cannot have required extensive factual investigations on behalf of the claimant: the broadcasts are in the public domain.”

He added: “On any view ... the claimant’s incurred costs to date are grossly unreasonable and disproportionate.”

Mr Millar said the judge should record “strong disapproval”.

If Sir Cliff’s claim succeeds, and he wins damages, the BBC could be ordered to pick up all his lawyers’ bills.

Sir Cliff has taken legal action over coverage of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

Lawyers representing the singer said in written submissions in October that he had suffered “profound and long-lasting” damage.

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

She said the BBC had reported Sir Cliff’s “full denial of the allegations at every stage”.

In June, South Yorkshire Police apologised “wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused” by the force’s “initial handling of the media interest” in its investigation into the singer.