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BBC wants to challenge Cliff Richard verdict

Agency | July 26, 2018 02:53 PM

LONDON: The BBC will seek permission to appeal a ruling over its coverage of a police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's home.

A high court judge ruled last week that the BBC infringed Richard's privacy in its reporting of the story in 2014, and awarded him 210,000 pound in damages.

The raid was part of an investigation into historical child sex allegations -- Richard was never arrested or charged.

The BBC argues the ruling could put press freedom at stake.

The broadcaster will later seek leave to appeal all of the main findings of law in Justice Mann's judgment - although the judge is unlikely to grant an appeal against his own ruling.

The British broadcaster wants to challenge the judge's findings, including that Richard had a right to privacy while a suspect in a police investigation -- trumping the BBC's right to freedom of expression to publish his name and cover the raid.

BBC legal affairs correspondent, Clive Coleman, said that if he refuses, it will be up to the broadcaster to decide whether to go directly to the Court of Appeal, which he understands the corporation is "carefully considering".

At the ruling earlier in July, Justice Mann said a suspect in a police investigation "has a reasonable expectation of privacy", and while Richard being investigated "might be of interest to the gossip-monger", there was not a "genuine public interest" case.

He also said that while the case could have a "significant impact on press reporting", it did not mean the law was changing or he was setting a precedent as the Human Rights Act already covers the issues at stake.

After the ruling last week, the BBC's director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth apologized to Richard and said: "In retrospect, there are things we would have done differently."

But, she said, the case marked a "significant shift" against press freedom and an "important principle" around the public's right to know what was at stake".

Speaking to ITV afterwards, the British pop singer said senior managers at the BBC have to "carry the can" for their actions, adding: "It's too big a decision to be made badly. It was nonsense."

"I want a correction made to what happened to me and it was made," he said. "Nobody said anything about freedom of speech. But I will fight to the death against the abuse of the freedom of speech.

"What the BBC did was an abuse. They took it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner."

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