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Trial Preview: Sir Cliff Richard v BBC

06/04/2018

 

Hearings in the trial of Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy and data protection claim against the BBC will begin on Thursday 12 April before Mr Justice Mann. The trial is listed for ten days. One Brick Court’s Aidan Eardley is junior counsel for the BBC.

The claim

The claim concerns the BBC’s coverage of a South Yorkshire Police search of the Claimant’s home in Berkshire. That search followed an allegation of a historic offence, which Sir Cliff has always denied. He was not arrested and, in 2016, the CPS announced that he would face no charges.

The BBC’s coverage named Sir Cliff and gave some detail of the alleged offence. Footage of the Claimant’s home at the time of the search was included in broadcasts, including video taken using a helicopter.

South Yorkshire Police have already admitted liability for providing information to the BBC (and facilitating its coverage) and have paid Sir Cliff substantial damages (see the statement in open court at http://www.simkins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Sir-Cliff-Richard-v-SYP-SIOC-26.05.17.pdf).

The trial

This will be the first part of a split trial, and is concerned with liability, general damages, aggravated damages and some elements of special damages in Sir Cliff’s claim against the BBC, and issues in the contribution claims between the BBC and South Yorkshire Police.

The trial raises a number of issues of interest for practitioners in media and information law, including: 

  • Privacy before arrest: the scope of Article 8 in respect of reports of police activity prior to arrest, such as searches and publicity for allegations of historic offences. 
  • Information sharing between police forces and media organisations. 
  • The media’s Article 10 rights when reporting on police investigations and/or information provided by public authorities. 
  • The scope of general damages in misuse of private information claims, and whether such damages compensate for harm to reputation. 
  • The section 32 exemption under the DPA, and the relationship between section 32 and the Article 8/10 balance in privacy claims. 

In the event that the Claimant succeeds in establishing liability, the second part of the split trial will address the remaining elements of his special damages claim.

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