18 July, 2018
Sir Cliff Richard has today won a privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a police raid of his home, the High Court awarding the singer £210,000 in damages.
Richard, who sued both the BBC and South Yorkshire Police, claimed that the BBC's reporting of the 2014 raid was a 'serious invasion' of his privacy rights. Of note, Richards was never arrested or charged over the alleged offences (innocent until proven guilty).The judge, Mr Justice Mann, said: 'I have found that this was a serious infringement of Sir Cliff's privacy rights, in terms of what was disclosed, in terms of the manner of disclosure and in terms of the effect on Sir Cliff.' Mann found that 'Sir Cliff had privacy rights in respect of the police investigation and the BBC infringed those rights without a legal justification.'
Richard sued South Yorkshire Police for breach of privacy and under the Data Protection Act 1998, as the offence occurred before the implementation of GDPR and the new Data Protection Act 2018, after the police disclosed that he was under investigation and the date, time and place of an intended search of his home. Before the trial, South Yorkshire Police had already admitted liability and agreed to pay £400,000 in damages plus costs. Richard's went on to sue the BBC on the same grounds for publicly disclosing the facts and covering the search in various broadcasts.
The case turned on subsequent dealings between the BBC and SYP. The BBC claimed that the police had volunteered the information, whereas Richard claimed that SYP was 'manoeuvred into providing it' out of a fear and implicit threat that the BBC would or might publish news of the investigation before the police were ready to conduct their search.
Mr Mann found that not only did the BBC breach Sir Cliff's privacy rights, 'it did so in a serious way and also in a somewhat sensationalist way.'
This case goes against several previous decisions, which recognised the importance to the media of identifying individuals in reports. Here, the court found that even where an investigation involves public activity - and reporting on it is in the public interest - an individual can still have a reasonable expectation of privacy and not to be identified.
Authorities throughout the UK should take note of this decision, which has implications for anyone seeking to share any sensitive data with other organisations, be they in the press or otherwise, which may adversely affect an individual's rights to privacy under the Human Rights Act. Before any such disclosure is made, they must ask themselves what the impact would be on the individual and is it proportional, which in this case it was not.
Forbes regularly advises on all matters relating to GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, including the drafting of suitable data sharing agreements. Contact us at Ciaran.Rafferty@forbessolicitors.co.uk to discuss how we can assist you in complying with data privacy regulations.