Cliff Richard's lawyer blames BBC for false sexual abuse allegations

Cliff Richard's lawyer blames BBC for false sexual abuse allegations”

She described it as "an excellent piece of work" and added: "It was a very good piece of journalism".

Challenged again by Sir Cliff's lawyer Justin Rushbrooke that the complaint looked flimsy, Mr Johnson said he passed the facts on to his bosses to make a judgement.

Johnson denied a suggestion he was "strong-arming" the police into disclosing details and said he was simply making a "light-hearted" remark when he wrote in an email that he had them "over a barrel".

The email, sent after the raid from former BBC UK news editor Gary Smith to then northern bureau editor Declan Wilson, said there were "some issues about exactly how (the) relationship with South Yorkshire Police developed".

Dan Johnson told the High Court that he was "aware" of privacy issues around the story. Sir Cliff denied the allegation and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.

The 77-year-old singer is suing the BBC over its coverage of the search, which was carried out after a historical sex assault allegation, and is seeking 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.

Giving evidence to the court on Friday morning, Mr Johnson was asked about whether he believed he had pressurised South Yorkshire Police into cooperating on the story. It says the report on the police inquiry was in the public interest, the coverage was accurate and in good faith, and journalists had respected Sir Cliff's "presumption of innocence". The star was never arrested or charged with any offence.

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Mr Johnson added: "Of course it could be damaging but that doesn't mean that we don't have a right to report that, a right to tell people what the police are doing".

According to the BBC, he told the court: "I believe it was as a direct result of the publicity generated by the BBC that various people came out of the woodwork, and those allegations came to nothing eventually".

Lawyers have told Mr Justice Mann how in late 2013, a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff during an event featuring evangelist Billy Graham at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football stadium, when he was a child in 1985.

A barrister representing Sir Cliff asked Mr Johnson if he was prepared to offer the singer a "personal apology in court".

Mr Johnson had told the judge, in a written witness statement, how he guessed Sir Cliff's name after a "contact" told him police were looking at "just one more major figure".

Sir Cliff "It is just a shorthand reference. the story that I had heard about him is what I have alluded to there".

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

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

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