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Sir Cliff Richard privacy case: Police commissioner 'cannot see' point of BBC's attempts to appeal

Sir Cliff Richard at the court hearing in London last month, at which he was awarded substantial damages. Photo: PA Wire
Sir Cliff Richard at the court hearing in London last month, at which he was awarded substantial damages. Photo: PA Wire

SOUTH Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said he “cannot see what is being gained” from the BBC’s attempts to appeal against a landmark privacy case brought by Sir Cliff Richard.

Sir Cliff, pictured, was last month awarded substantial damages over TV coverage of a raid by South Yorkshire Police on his home in 2014 as part of an investigation into child sex abuse.

He was never arrested.

Police commissioner Alan Billings said the court case had already been lengthy.

He said: “I felt very sorry for Sir Cliff Richard because it was a very long time and he was clearly caused very considerable distress by that.”

South Yorkshire Police, which had given the BBC details of the raid, had already settled its case with Sir Cliff by agreeing to pay him £400,000.

The BBC has until next Friday to decide if it will again attempt to appeal against the court ruling, after an initial appeal bid was rejected last month. The corporation is reportedly leaning towards dropping the matter.

Dr Billings said: “Personally, I cannot see what is being gained from this protracted period.”

He also said he thought concern in the media – that the case would set a precedent threatening press freedoms – was “overdone”.

“I didn’t myself think that it had changed the situation in the media and its right to freedom of expression,” he added.

“I didn’t think that was being compromised in any significant way by this judgement.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We have reiterated that we are very sorry to Sir Cliff for the distress caused and have no desire to prolong this case unnecessarily, but the ruling has raised significant questions for press freedom and we are still considering the best way to address these.”

The full cost to the BBC is not yet known. It has so far been ordered to pay Sir Cliff an initial £210,000 in damages and has agreed to pay £850,000 towards his legal costs and £315,000 towards the legal fees of South Yorkshire Police.

Dr Billings said the overall cost to South Yorkshire Police was still likely to be around the £400,000 agreed at an earlier stage.

“Hopefully there isn’t much money to be found, so I’m pleased about that,” he added.