| Author: Tony Imossi (Secretariat) | Filed under: General News


1. This is the occasion of the hand-down of my judgment in this case. It should now be treated as
formally delivered. Because of the length of my judgment, and because of the significant public
interest which I believe it will attract, I provide the following summary of its nature and effect. It is
not part of the judgment and is provided by way of a summary only, and in the event of any conflict
my judgment prevails My judgment should be read in full for the full terms and effect of my
decision on the many points that arise in this case.

2. In order to avoid any unnecessary or artificial suspense, I will say at this stage that Sir Cliff Richard
succeeds in his claim against the BBC and will receive substantial damages.

3. In this case Sir Cliff Richard sues South Yorkshire Police (“SYP”) in privacy and under the Data
Protection Act 1998 in respect of the disclosure in July 2014 by that force of the fact that he was
under investigation for alleged sexual offences involving a minor, and of the date, time and place of
an intended search by SYP of his English property. He sues the BBC in privacy and under the Data
Protection Act for publicly disclosing those facts and covering the search in various broadcasts in
August 2014. He claims that those wrongful acts caused him great personal distress, damaged his
reputation and had a huge adverse impact on his life. Sir Cliff was the subject of the police
investigation until June 2016 when it was announced that he would face no charge.

4. Before the trial SYP had already admitted liability and agreed to pay Sir Cliff substantial damages
in the sum of £400,000, plus costs. SYP’s liability was therefore not the subject of the trial, but the
trial did involve the question of whether South Yorkshire Police is entitled to claim a contribution
from the BBC, and vice versa, in respect of damages for which they are both liable.

5. The main area of disputed fact in this case revolves around dealings between the BBC and SYP in
July 2014. There was a dispute as to whether the police volunteered such information as it provided
(the BBC’s case) or whether SYP was manoeuvered into providing it from 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 (SYP’s and Sir Cliff’s case). As my judgment reflects, I have accepted the
SYP/Cliff Richard case on this point, and rejected the BBC’s case. I have found that SYP 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.

6. So far as the main claim in this case is concerned, I find that Sir Cliff had privacy rights in respect
of the police investigation and that the BBC infringed those rights without a legal justification. It didso in a serious way and also in a somewhat sensationalist way. I have rejected the BBC’s case that it was justified in reporting as it did under its rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. I did not find it necessary to rule on the claim under the Data Protection Act. Sir Cliff therefore wins on the privacy point and has established liability. 

7. That infringement gives rise to a claim in damages. There are two types of damages – special
damages and general damages. The special damages are certain specific claims arising out of what
are said to be particular financial effects flowing from the infringement. The special damages points
were raised by way of some sample instances on which I was invited to rule on legal causation. Sir
Cliff has won on some of those samples, but not on others. I have not ruled on the amount of any
particular special damages claim. That procedure is intended to clear away some of the issues for
the purposes of future determination by the court, or to facilitate settlement. If those claims do not
settle they will have to be determined in a later inquiry.

8. The general damages cover the general effect on Sir Cliff and his life. I have found that this was a
serious infringement of Sir Cliffs privacy rights, in terms of what was disclosed, in terms of the
manner of disclosure and in terms of the effect on Sir Cliff. The damage caused was substantial and
I have assessed basic general damages at £190,000. There is also a claim to aggravated damages, in
which Sir Cliff sought to extend his damages claim by reference to what were said to be various
aggravating features. I have rejected all but one of those aggravation claims. The exception is the
claim arising out of the BBC’s nominating its story for an award at the Royal Television Society
Awards as the “Scoop of the Year” (which, incidentally, it did not win). I have found that that merits
aggravated damages which I have assessed at £20,000. Thus Sir Cliff recovers £210,000 by way of
general damages.

9. Most of the damages claimed in this case are damages which have been caused by both the BBC
and SYP, which gives rise to the need to determine how those damages should be borne as between
those two parties. That is the function of the cross-contribution claims. SYP said that the BBC was
much more responsible than it was and proposed that liability for the damages ought to be borne in
the proportions 20%/80% as between the police and BBC respectively. The BBC’s case, at its highest,
was that it ought not to have to contribute at all and that the police ought to bear all the damages. I
have rejected both parties’ extreme cases but nonetheless decided that the BBC was much more
responsible than SYP, and have determined that the damages for which both parties are responsible
(which does not include the aggravated damages) ought to be borne 35%/65% as between SYP and
the BBC respectively, principally on the footing that the BBC was a significantly greater contributor
to the damage that was caused.

10. That is a summary of what I have decided in my judgment. Because of the length of that
judgment it is not being made generally available in paper form, but will now be available, together
with this executive summary, online at; and soon (without this summary) at

For full judgment click here.

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