South Yorkshire Police apologises over 'distress' caused to Sir Cliff Richard

SOUTH YORKSHIRE Police has apologised to Sir Cliff Richard for the distress he has suffered, after the star won a landmark privacy case.

Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police

Sir Cliff took legal action over BBC broadcasts of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

He had sued the force for privacy and Data Protection Act breaches by disclosing in July 2014 that he was under investigation for alleged sexual offences involving a minor, and of the date, time and place of an intended police search of his home.

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He was also suing the BBC for privacy and Data Protection Act breaches for broadcasting the search.

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Read the judge's ruling over Sir Cliff Richard's privacy case against the BBC

He has today been awarded an initial £190,000 in damages, plus £20,000 of aggravated damages after the BBC submitted the coverage of the raid for an award.

Thirty-five per cent of the £190,000 is to be paid by South Yorkshire Police and 65 per cent by the BBC.

Further damages may still be awarded.

South Yorkshire Police had already admitted liability ahead of the trial and had agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 in damages, plus costs.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson said he "fully accepted" the findings of Mr Justice Mann.

He said: “I particularly welcome Mr Justice Mann’s findings that all South Yorkshire Police officers and staff were found to have acted entirely honestly and were credible and reliable witnesses.

“At a very early stage of these proceedings, we accepted and apologised to Sir Cliff Richard for the mistakes we made in our attempts to protect the integrity of the police investigation and the rights of the complainant, balanced against Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy rights.

“I would like to take this opportunity to again offer our sincere apologies for the distress Sir Cliff Richard has suffered.”

A key part of Mr Justice Mann's findings centred around whether South Yorkshire Police voluntarily gave the BBC the details of the raid, which was the BBC's case, or acted out of "a fear and implicit threat that the BBC would or might publish news of the investigation before the police were ready to conduct their search", which was the case of both South Yorkshire Police and Sir Cliff.

In the summary of his judgement, he said: "I have accepted the South Yorkshire Police/Cliff Richard case on this point, and rejected the BBC's case. I have found that South Yorkshire Police did not merely volunteer the material for its own purposes; it provided it because of a concern that if it did not do so there would be a prior publication by the BBC, a concern known to and probably fostered by the BBC's reporter, Mr Dan Johnson."

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "I welcome the judgement in this case and am sorry for the distress caused to Sir Cliff Richard over this difficult period of time.

"South Yorkshire Police admitted and acknowledged their mistakes, settling damages with Sir Cliff Richard out of court in 2017."

He said South Yorkshire Police had also assured him that it had implemented the five recommendations of an independent review carried out in 2014 into the disclosure of information to the BBC.