Sir Cliff Richard wins privacy case against BBC and South Yorkshire Police



“The relationship between the media and police behind this disturbing invasion into Sir Cliff’s privacy is exactly what should be investigated in Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry


Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

This morning it was announced that Sir Cliff Richard had won his privacy case against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police, following the broadcast raid on the singer’s home in 2014.


Commenting, Hacked Off Executive Director Dr Evan Harris said,

“Police tip-offs to the media ahead of searches and arrests were criticised at Part One of the Leveson Inquiry in respect of newspapers, and this case shows that the problem has not been solved. 


“The relationship and interactions between the media and police that lay behind this disturbing invasion into Sir Cliff’s privacy is exactly what would have been and still should be investigated in Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry.  In addition, Leveson’s recommendations on police contact with the media, which have only ever been partially implemented, should be reflected in police guidelines in full with immediate effect.”


The judgement contains a number of findings which will affect the activities of the press, which are set out below.


Commenting on the detail of the judgment, Dr Harris added,

“This judgment highlights the fact that the public and some parts of the media do not always comprehend the distinction between an innocent person subject to investigation and outright guilt, and that the coverage of a salacious allegation is usually greater than that of their being subsequently cleared.  In doing so the judgment refers to the treatment of Bristol landlord (and now Hacked Off Patron) Christopher Jefferies, who was the subject of demonisation by the press when he was arrested for the murder of his tenant, Joanna Yeates, despite the fact he was never charged.


When journalists were arrested in relation to bribery and phone hacking, newspapers who knew who they were and reported their arrest did not feel obliged to publish their identity.  This suggests that those in the media arguing that searches and arrests are not private seek to have one rule for their own and another for everyone else”.



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The judge found that;


On a suspect having an expectation of privacy when subject to a police investigation:

“As a matter of general principle, a suspect has a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation”



On when the individual is also a public figure:

“A public figure is not, by virtue of that quality, necessarily deprived of his or her legitimate expectations of privacy… Indeed, his public status emphasises the need for privacy”



On information gathered by journalists by subterfuge without sufficient public interest justification; and its use to “blackmail” targets or third parties into further disclosure (“chequebook journalism”):

Mr Johnson relied on a form of threat (not overtly made in a hostile manner, but understood as such by SYP nonetheless) to get his information about the search and the confirmation that he felt he needed.”


“It is very significant that the publication started with obviously private and sensitive information, obtained from someone who, to the knowledge of Mr Johnson, ought not to have revealed it, and confirmed and bolstered with a ploy in the form of a perceived threat that ought not to have been made.”



On the responsibility of the media to give the subject of stories an opportunity to challenge publication, where there is no public interest risk in doing so:

“it is also proper to give the subject some sort of opportunity to challenge publication before it happens, whether by persuasion or injunction.”



On the seriousness of the privacy breach:

“the BBC went in for an invasion of Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a big way.”


“this was a very serious invasion of privacy rights, which had a very adverse effect”



On the impact on the press:

“I agree that the case is capable of having a significant impact on press reporting”


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