'I just reported the facts' says BBC journalist who broke story on raid of Sir Cliff Richard's home

Sir Cliff Richard has sued the BBC over coverage of the South Yorkshire Police search of his home in August 2014 and wants damages at the "top end" of the scale.
Sir Cliff Richard has sued the BBC over coverage of the South Yorkshire Police search of his home in August 2014 and wants damages at the "top end" of the scale.
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A BBC reporter who broke a story about Sir Cliff Richard's home being searched by police following a child sex assault allegation has told a High Court judge that he "just reported the facts".

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Dan Johnson accepted that his story had "distressed" the 77-year-old singer.

But he said that distress was not "caused by me uniquely".

Mr Johnson outlined his thoughts while giving evidence to Mr Justice Mann at a High Court trial in London on Wednesday.

A barrister representing Sir Cliff asked Mr Johnson if he was prepared to offer the singer a "personal apology in court".

But the judge intervened and said such a line of questioning was "not helpful".

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Sir Cliff has sued the BBC over coverage of the SouthYorkshire Police search in August 2014 and wants damages at the "top end" of the scale.

He says the coverage, which involved the use of a helicopter, was a "very serious invasion" of his privacy.

The BBC disputes his claims.

Bosses say coverage of the search of the apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was accurate and in good faith.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, who heads Sir Cliff's legal team, asked Mr Johnson if he accepted that his story had caused "massive damage and distress" to the singer.

"I accept that he has been upset and distressed about it," Mr Johnson replied.

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"I accept the distress he feels, I don't accept it was caused by me uniquely.

"Obviously South Yorkshire Police were part of that and my colleagues at the BBC who were part of the story as well.

"I don't believe I was at fault, I just reported the facts of a story.

"I am sure the investigation would have been distressing."

Mr Johnson said his primary concern was around himself and his position when filming near the singer's home.

He said decisions about the helicopter being used to gather images were taken by senior editorial staff.

"It wasn't for me to consider the bigger picture, the wider implications of what was being broadcast," he told the court.

"It wasn't my responsibility and I hadn't seen everything that was being filmed."

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He added: "If you are taking about the general idea of having the helicopter there then I thought that it was useful to tell people what was going on."

Mr Johnson had told the judge, in a written witness statement, how he guessed Sir Cliff's name after a "contact" told him police were looking at "just one more major figure".

He said he had heard "previous rumours" about Sir Cliff.

Mr Johnson said his contact had spoken of allegations being "closer to home".

He said his previous work had been in Sheffield and he took that to mean that SouthYorkshire Police were involved.

The reporter explained how he had asked Carrie Goodwin, South Yorkshire Police's head of

communications, whether Sir Cliff was on the "radar".

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He said her response was an "audible gasp".

Mr Johnson said: "I did not put South Yorkshire Police under any pressure in order for them to provide me with the information that they did."

Lawyers have told Mr Justice Mann how in late 2013, a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff during an event featuring evangelist Billy Graham at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football stadium, when he was a child in 1985.

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

Sir Cliff denied the allegation and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.

A BBC spokesman said that the corporation had reported Sir Cliff's "full denial of the allegations at every stage".

- South Yorkshire Police agreed to pay Sir Cliff Richard £400,000 after settling a claim he brought against the force, the judge has heard. The singer had initially also sued South Yorkshire Police after complaining about coverage of the raid. But Mr Justice Mann was told how in May 2017 that dispute had been settled.

Fans of Sir Cliff Richard in court to offer moral support

Lifelong fans of Sir Cliff Richard have been to the High Court to offer him "moral support" during his battle against the BBC over its coverage of a police search of his home.

Maria Darling and other members of the Shoulder To Shoulder With Sir Cliff supporters' group were in the courtroom as BBC reporter Dan Johnson gave evidence on Wednesday.

The 57-year-old, from Hatfield, Hertforshire, said she set up the group, which now has more than 1,400 members, in the hours following the police raid on the singer's home in 2014.

She said she and other group members had waited outside every day of the trial so far to catch a glimpse of their idol, but decided to be there while Mr Johnson gave his evidence so the 77-year-old entertainer knew his fans were behind him.

She said: "We are here to support him and wanted him to see some of his fans in the courtroom.

"We want it to be a little bit of moral support for him, to have us here.

"Members of the group from all over the world have sent him their love and they are all behind him 100%."

Referring to the case, she said she felt an "injustice" had been done, adding: "We just think it is so unfair what has happened to him."

Ms Darling said she has been a fan of the singer since she was six years old and has met him on a number of occasions.

She said she and other group members were organising a trip to Sir Cliff's winery in Portugal later in the year and that fans would have the chance to meet him.