A judge has refused to give BBC bosses the go-ahead to take their privacy fight with Sir Cliff Richard to the Court of Appeal.
A high court judge last week ruled that the corporation infringed on the singer’s privacy “without justification” in its reporting of a police raid on his house in 2014 following a child sex assault allegation.
Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged over the claim and was awarded £210,000 damages.
The BBC separately agreed to pay the 77-year-old £850,000 within two weeks to cover his legal costs, but had sought leave to appeal the ruling, arguing that it could put press freedom at stake.
Following the decision the broadcaster issued a statement saying: “This is a complex case and while we hadn’t decided on whether to pursue an appeal, we sought permission today in order to keep all options open.
“We reiterate that we are very sorry to Sir Cliff for the distress caused and have no desire to prolong this case unnecessarily, but the ruling has raised significant questions for press freedom and we are considering the best way to address these.”
BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said, before today’s decision, that if Justice Mann refused the request, it will be up to the broadcaster to decide whether to go directly to the Court of Appeal - which he understands the corporation is “carefully considering”.
According to a report by the BBC, the corporation wants to challenge Justice Mann’s findings, including that Sir Cliff had a right to privacy while a suspect in a police investigation - trumping the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression to publish his name and cover the raid.
It will also seek to appeal his entitlement to damages for injury to his reputation in a privacy case, as opposed to a defamation claim.
Following the initial judgement, Richard’s lawyer said his client was “very pleased” with the ruling and the experience had a “profound” effect on him.
“Serious questions ought to be asked about the BBC’s focus on preserving their exclusive story on the expense of Sir Cliff’s rights,” the lawyer added.
In a statement outside court, the head of the BBC’s news division, Fran Unsworth, said the corporation was sorry for the distress that Sir Cliff has been through and that it understood “the very serious impact” it had had on him.