Sir Cliff Richard is planning to sue the BBC after they filmed a police raid on his UK home, it was claimed last night.
The 74-year-old singer is seeking damages for breach of privacy if he isn’t charged over an allegation of historic sexual abuse.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Sir Cliff is also considering legal action against South Yorkshire Police. The force struck a deal with the Corporation to film the swoop on his £3 million penthouse.
In August the BBC faced an avalanche of criticism from leading lawyers, celebrities and politicians after it dispatched a helicopter to hover over the Berkshire property and stationed reporters at its gates before police had even arrived.
Cameramen in the air were able to zoom in on officers through the windows as they searched through belongings. Sir Cliff, who vigorously denies any wrongdoing and has not been arrested, was in Portugal at the time.
‘No citizen should have to watch on live television their home being raided in this way,’ concluded a blistering Home Affairs Select Committee report.
Sir Cliff’s lawyer Gideon Benaim denounced the ‘premature and disproportionate’ reporting which caused the veteran entertainment ‘immeasurable harm’.
Friends say Sir Cliff is now determined to launch a concerted fightback. As his association with the BBC goes back to the start of his career – he appeared on Juke Box Jury in 1961 and on the first episode of Top Of The Pops in 1964 – legal action is likely to cause acute embarrassment.
The singer was said to be dismayed to learn of the extent of co-operation between South Yorkshire Police and the BBC in the weeks leading up to the raid.
As the Home Affairs Select Committee noted last month, not only did the force give the broadcaster the date of the search, it also ‘handed over a great deal of information freely’.
This newspaper can disclose that emails, text messages and other documents given to the committee show that the BBC:
Expressed concern that the alleged sex abuse victim might ruin its exclusive story by alerting other media.
Was privy to operational details not usually released to journalists – including how officers struggled to find Sir Cliff’s home and how they were considering searching his overseas properties.
Received a running commentary from police at the start of the raid. At one point BBC reporter Dan Johnson was told: ‘Going in now, Dan… We have managed to gain entry.’
Asked to be alerted before officers removed anything ‘so we can get the chopper in place for a shot’.
One legal expert said last night that the level of intrusion meant Sir Cliff would have a ‘strong case’ and added that the BBC would struggle to mount a public interest defence.
The police investigation began when a man, now in his 40s, came forward earlier this year to claim Sir Cliff sexually assaulted him during a Christian rally in Sheffield organised by Billy Graham, the American evangelist, in 1985.
A BBC spokesperson said:“The Home Affairs Select Committee has already endorsed the way the BBC handled this story. We have nothing further to add.” while South Yorkshire police said that “While we believe our actions in relation to dealing with the media were within policy and were well intended they were ultimately flawed and we regret the additional anxiety which was caused to Sir Cliff Richard.”