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May 28, 2017

Sir Cliff obtains order requiring BBC to say if source was Yewtree

Categories: Data Protection, Privacy

Tags: data protection, interim application, journalistic sources, misuse of private information, request for further information

Also settles with South Yorkshire Police



An application to compel the BBC to disclose whether or not its information that Sir Cliff Richard was under investigation by the South Yorkshire Police came from Operation Yewtree has succeeded.

In October 2016 Sir Cliff commenced proceedings against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police (SYP) for misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 after the BBC broadcast near contemporaneous coverage of a search by SYP of Sir Cliff’s home on 14 August 2014.

Sir Cliff alleges that the BBC obtained the information which enabled it to enter into an arrangement with the SYP whereby the police would tip the BBC off in advance of the search from a source within Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into historic sex offences.  The BBC refused to address the allegation in its Defence, asserting that it was entitled not to disclose any information about its sources.  Sir Cliff disputed this and applied for an order requiring the BBC to confirm or deny that it had obtained its information from a source within Operation Yewtree or alternatively someone who had obtained the information from within Operation Yewtree.  Sir Cliff explicitly eschewed any wish to identify the individual source in question.  The BBC opposed the application, contending that to require it to answer the question risked identifying the individual source, and that since the relevant legal tests applicable to applications for source disclosure under s.10, Contempt of Court Act 1981 had not been satisfied, the application should be dismissed.

The judge disagreed with the BBC’s arguments, finding that the risk that answering the question would lead to the identification of the individual source was low such that s.10, Contempt of Court Act 1981 was not engaged.  The matter accordingly fell to be judged by the familiar Re S balancing act between the parties’ competing rights and interests, and carrying out that exercise, the balance lay clearly in favour of the Claimant.  A 5RB case report on the Judgment and the Judgment itself can be found here.

In other news, Sir Cliff has settled his claim against the SYP and an agreed Statement in Open Court has been read.  The SYP acknowledged that their conduct was unlawful and they offered their sincere apologies to Sir Cliff.  In the meantime, Sir Cliff’s claim against the BBC continues, as do the BBC’s and the SYP’s Part 20 contribution claims against each other.  The Statement in Open Court can be read here.

Justin Rushbrooke QC and Godwin Busuttil of 5RB are acting for Sir Cliff while Adam Wolanski is representing the SYP.