In a significant victory for the privacy of celebrities, Sir Cliff Richard has won his High Court battle against the BBC for a breach of his privacy, while broadcasting a police search of his home.

The High Court ruling said the singer’s privacy rights had been infringed by the BBC in a “serious and sensationalist way” and awarded Sir Cliff £210,000 in damages for the “general effect” the coverage and subsequent legal battle has had on his life. They have also said that he will be entitled to claim further damages for financial loss which will be decided at a later date.

Sir Cliff began legal proceedings against the BBC after they extensively covered a police search of his home which also included helicopter footage and named Sir Cliff as the subject of the investigations. Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged following allegation of historic sexual assault which led to the police search. He claimed the BBC’s reporting was a “serious invasion of privacy”.

This is a ruling that will be welcomed by many in the public eye who feel their privacy is not respected by the media. Tabloid newspapers have had to pay damages for privacy breaches or printing false information in the past but it is very rare for broadcasters like the BBC to do so.

Mr Justice Mann, who handed down the ruling,found that ‘Sir Cliff had privacy rights in respect of the police investigation and the BBC infringed those rights without a legal justification.’

Following the high court ruling, the BBC has released a statement announcing their plans for an appeal. In the statement, Fran Unsworth, Director of News and Current Affairs, also stated;

“This judgement creates new case law and represents a dramatic shift against press freedom and the long-standing ability of journalists to report on police investigations, which in some cases has led to further complainants coming forward.

This impacts not just the BBC, but every media organisation.”

This ruling may indeed trigger significant changes in the way the press can cover matters surrounding police suspects which in itself is a complex and controversial topic. If serious allegations made against a suspect are covered across the media and then later found to be untrue, irreversible damage can be done to that person’s reputation.

If you find yourself in a data privacy dispute, it is vital you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Get in touch with Farleys Solicitors for professional legal advice on your situation. Call us today on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.

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