BBC calls Sir Cliff's £800k legal costs 'grossly unreasonable'

4 May 2017, 22:38

BBC chiefs have accused Sir Cliff Richard of running up "grossly unreasonable" legal fees after seeking damages over the broadcaster naming him as a suspected sex offender.

The singer is claiming costs of £800,000, described by the corporation's legal team as "on any view ... disproportionate" at a preliminary hearing at London's High Court.

If Sir Cliff's claim succeeds and he wins damages, the BBC could be ordered to pick up all his lawyers' bills but the corporation's editors have said they will "defend ourselves vigorously."

The entertainer's case is that he suffered "profound and long-lasting" damage from coverage of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, prompting him to sue the BBC and South Yorkshire Police.

A BBC spokeswoman said it had reported Sir Cliff's "full denial of the allegations at every stage" while South Yorkshire Police have apologised "wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused" by the force's "initial handling of the media interest" in its investigation.

Sir Cliff's legal team say the bills were a "direct result" of the actions of the BBC and police, which invaded his privacy and forced him to sell the apartment because the idea of living somewhere which had been "so publicly violated" distressed him.

He has also accused the BBC of broadcasting the police raid purely for entertainment, saying the corporation added "insult to injury" by entering its coverage in a Scoop of the Year journalism contest.

Prosecutors announced in June last year that Sir Cliff would face no charges over the allegations, which he always denied.

His lawyers are also demanding BBC editors tell him whether the source of their information was someone working on Operation Yewtree, the investigation into historic sexual abuse.

BBC editors do not want to reveal the details, saying journalists must protect their sources.