Local Government Lawyer Insight December 2018 LocalGovernmentLawyer 14 Sir Cliff Richard v the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) (18th July 2018) On 14th August 2014 South Yorkshire Police searched the home of Sir Cliff Richard, as part of an investigation into a complaint of historic child sexual abuse. This was not an ordinary search – the BBC had rolling live coverage with a helicopter filming the celebrity and police searching his flat. The BBC found out about the investigation from a source who should not have revealed it to them and the South Yorkshire Police notified them of the search date. In 2016 the investigation was dropped. Sir Cliff Richard brought a claim against South Yorkshire Police for informing the BBC and the BBC for informing the world, thereby infringing his privacy and data protection rights. The High Court found that the defendants did infringe Sir Cliff’s privacy rights and declined to determine his data protection rights because the claimant would not get higher awards. Accordingly, the defendants had to pay £210,000 in damages which was split 65:35 as between the BBC and South Yorkshire Police. In this case Mr Justice Mann had to balance two competing rights – the individual’s right to respect for his private and family life (Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights(CEHC) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR), which underlies press freedom. He came down on the side of the individual, and perhaps inadvertently, made a significant change in the law by stating that the prima facie position, i.e. a presumption, that an individual will have a legitimate expectation that a criminal investigation against them will be kept private, which then raises the conflict between Article 8 and Article 10. Below I set out Mann J’s reasoning and lessons for local authorities when working with the media. Analysis of judgment The approach the judge took to considering Sir Cliffs’s claim was: (1) Did Sir Cliff have a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to the investigation and search? (2) If so, was there an infringement of his privacy rights and what were the damages? In short, the judge found that the answer was yes to both questions. The judge found that prima facie an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy, in part based on the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry report. Sir Cliff’s status as a famous celebrity did not mean he had a lower expectation of privacy, especially in relation to a criminal investigation. As such, the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life was engaged. Mann J had to balance the private life right with the freedom of expression right and determine whether the BBC was justified in interfering with Sir Cliff’s right and whether it was proportionate to do so. The judge considered a number of criteria to answer these questions and decided each one in favour of Sir Cliff. In particular, he found that reporting the scoop was not in the public interest because it was done with the sole aim of satisfying a reader’s interest in the person’s private life: “Knowing that Sir Cliff was under investigation might be of interest to the gossip-mongers, but it does not contribute materially to the genuine public interest in the existence of police investigations in this area.” [282] Although the BBC did publish accurate information, they used questionable methods of obtaining it. Their source from Operation Yewtree should not have revealed it to them and they knew it was private and sensitive information. In addition, the BBC breached their own Ethical Guidelines by not giving Sir Cliff a genuine right of reply. The judge sharply criticised the sensationalist presentation of the story which he said weighed against the public interest of freedom of expression. In addition the unnecessary use of the helicopter was aimed to increase the impact. The BBC appeared to disregard the consequences of the individual, which for a person like Sir Cliff were very serious. Although the criminal law requires a presumption of innocence, the judge criticised the BBC for not taking into Through the looking glass Rosalee Dorfman Mohajer looks at the implications of the Cliff Richard judgment against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police for local authorities when they share information with the press.