Sir Cliff Richard has begun his High Court battle against the BBC, after the corporation broadcast a police raid on his Berkshire home in 2014.
The pop icon, 77, is seeking “very substantial” damages after the BBC acted on a tip-off from South Yorkshire Police and offered live coverage of a raid on his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, as part of an investigation into a historical child sex abuse allegation.
Sir Cliff was previously questioned over the allegation, but he has constantly maintained his innocence and has never faced charges.
The BBC has confirmed that they will “defend ourselves rigorously”, and argued in court that South Yorkshire Police attempted to “”shoot its messenger”.
The public broadcaster also claims that it was in the public interest to broadcast the raid, and insists that their reporting “fully respected the presumption of innocence” of the popular singer.
Sir Cliff Richard tells me his first day was "very good, thank you" as he leaves the High Court. He'll return tomorrow to give his own personal evidence in the trial against the BBC. pic.twitter.com/jL0fCIQUYQ
— Joe Tidy (@joetidy) April 12, 2018
In opening statement by Sir Cliff’s legal team, Justin Rushbrooke QC outlined the emotional toll of the case, and how it had prompted Sir Cliff to cancel the release of a 2015 autobiography.
“No person should have to be told by a friend that they’ve just been named on the BBC one o’clock news about an historical sexual abuse offence allegation relating to a child,” he said.
He later added: “This was a toxic combination of unchecked ambition from the BBC’s reporter, an obsessive desire to scoop their rivals, to make the headlines and a regrettable failure to uphold standards.”
The BBC previously offered an apology to the singer in 2016.
“The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress,” a statement read.
“The BBC’s responsibility is to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest, which is why they have been reported by all news organisations in this country.”