Cliff Richard privacy case: Bosses made decisions, says BBC reporter

Cliff Richard

Cliff Richard

Sir Cliff is taking legal action over BBC coverage of a 2014 police search after a sex assault allegation.

Dan Johnson told the High Court that he was "aware" of privacy issues around the story.

Cliff is seeking substantial damages and costs from the BBC and has already agreed a £400,000 settlement with South Yorkshire Police chiefs over their handling of the case.

It was part of a report by the BBC on South Yorkshire Police's sexual assault inquiry into the singer.

The singer claims he suffered "profound and long-lasting damage" from the coverage.

The BBC disputes his claims. It says the BBC report on the police inquiry was of public interest.

According to the BBC, he told the court: "I believe it was as a direct result of the publicity generated by the BBC that various people came out of the woodwork, and those allegations came to nothing eventually".

"Of course I am aware there are privacy issues around the story", Mr Johnson told Mr Justice Mann.

Lawyers for the corporation say its coverage was accurate and in good faith, and journalists had respected Sir Cliff's "presumption of innocence".

He added: "They were being dealt with by people higher up".

Mr Johnson outlined his thoughts while giving evidence to Mr Justice Mann at a High Court trial in London yesterday.

The BBC reporter said he stuck to instructions given to him by one of his editors.

During cross-examination by Sir Cliff's barrister Justin Rushbrooke QC, Mr Johnson said: "I didn't know at that time whether Sir Cliff was guilty or innocent, I didn't know whether the complainant who had come forward was telling the truth or not, I only had the facts of the search, the warrant and the investigation".

Any privacy issues around broadcasting footage from the helicopter was considered by the team on the story who could see the full feed, Mr Johnson said.

But Mr Johnson repeatedly denied he was referring to Sir Cliff in the email, and said the comments were about Mr Graham.

He said his previous work had been in Sheffield and he took that to mean that South Yorkshire Police were involved.

"This was a story involving allegations of a very serious nature against a figure of the highest profile, against the backdrop of a number of allegations being made against other celebrities - some of whom had been jailed", he told the court.

Mr Johnson told the court: "The story was that he was being investigated, that the police were searching his flat".

"The contact did not correct me", said Mr Johnson. The star was never arrested or charged with any offence.

'It doesn't affect the way I reported this story later on'.

Mr Johnson said it was a unusual 24 hours after the story broke, adding that he was praised on the scoop by his editors.

Mr Johnson added: "Of course it could be damaging but that doesn't mean that we don't have a right to report that, a right to tell people what the police are doing".