Privacy issues decided higher up in BBC, reporter tells Cliff Richard case judge

A BBC reporter who broke a story about Sir Cliff Richard's home being searched by police following a child sex assault allegation has told a judge that editors considered privacy issues when making decisions about coverage.

Dan Johnson said he said was aware of privacy issues, but added that people higher up dealt with those matters.

Mr Johnson outlined his thoughts while giving evidence to Mr Justice Mann at a High Court trial in London today.

Sir Cliff is suing the BBC over coverage of the South Yorkshire Police search in August 2014 and wants damages at the "top end" of the scale.

He says the coverage, which involved the use of a helicopter, was a "very serious invasion" of his privacy.

The BBC disputes his claims.

Bosses say coverage of the search of the apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was accurate and in good faith.

"Of course I am aware there are privacy issues around the story," Mr Johnson told Mr Justice Mann.

"I knew they were being taken into consideration by editors."

He added: "They were being dealt with by people higher up."

Sir Cliff arrived at court for today's hearing with presenter Gloria Hunniford.

They travelled in a taxi bearing a British Airways advertisement for trips to locations famous for music, including Nashville, Tennessee.

Presenter Paul Gambaccini was also at the hearing.

Mr Johnson was asked what he meant in an internal BBC email when he made remarks about a clip of Evangelist preacher Billy Graham rally at Bramall Lane in the 1980s, where the alleged sex assault was said to have happened.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, for Sir Cliff, said the phrases "it wasn't just the hand of God doing the touching" and "guilty in my book" were an indication of the reporter's "mindset" about the story.

The barrister said Mr Johnson was treating the singer "as a guilty man".

But Mr Johnson repeatedly denied he was referring to Sir Cliff in the email, and said the comments were about Mr Graham.

He described the "hand of God" reference as a "bad taste joke", adding: "These are light-hearted remarks made to a close colleague, it doesn't mean anything.

"It doesn't affect the way I reported this story later on."

Sir Cliff sat open-mouthed and shook his head in disbelief as Mr Johnson gave his responses to the court.

- PA


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