Reporter Dan Johnson ‘guessed’ singer’s name in police probe

Reporter Dan Johnson ‘guessed’ singer’s name in police probe


A BBC journalist who revealed Sir Cliff Richard’s home was being searched by police has told how he guessed the singer was being investigated.

Dan Johnson said he made the guess after a contact told him police were looking at “just one more major figure”.

Mr Johnson said he had heard “previous rumours” about Sir Cliff, and he was “determined” to protect his “confidential source”.

The singer has sued the BBC over its coverage of the search carried out by South Yorkshire Police, which followed an allegation made against him in August 2014.

Sir Cliff denied the allegation and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges. He is seeking damages at the “top end” of the scale.

The 77-year-old the court the coverage was a “very serious invasion” of his privacy, but the corporation disputes his claims saying coverage of the search of the apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was accurate and in good faith.

Mr Justice Mann is overseeing a trial at the high Court in London.

In his written witness statement, Mr Johnson told how he spoke to a “contact” in June 2014 and they had talked about high-profile cases involving celebrities.

Image:
Sir Cliff is suing the BBC over invasion of privacy

Mr Johnson said: “The contact said there was just one more major figure the police were looking at.

“I guessed this to be Sir Cliff Richard because of previous rumours I had heard about him. The contact confirmed I had guessed the right name.”

Mr Johnson said his contact had spoken of allegations being “closer to home”.

He said his previous work had been in Sheffield and he took that to mean that South Yorkshire Police was involved.

Mr Johnson said: “The contact did not correct me. Because of the context of the other cases mentioned, and rumours I had heard about Sir Cliff’s sexuality, I took from this the impression that it was an allegation of sexual abuse involving a boy and dating back some years.

“I also got the strong impression that the police were due to take further action.”

Mr Johnson added: “I did not put South Yorkshire Police under any pressure in order for them to provide me with the information that they did.”

He said it would have been “very disappointing” for the BBC to be scooped by a rival and that he was trying to stop that from happening.

The court heard he wrote in an email that it was “very frustrating” trying to get senior editorial staff – who he referred to as “the b******” – to run the story.

Sir Cliff Richard arrived at the High Court with former broadcaster Gloria Hunniford
Image:
Sir Cliff Richard arrived at the High Court with former broadcaster Gloria Hunniford

He added: “I didn’t understand what the delay was… it seemed to me that hours went by where we could have reported the story.

“We were stood in a position where we could have been noticed and I thought that would have given other media chance to turn up at Sunningdale and I was as mystified as to what was going on.”

He said it was only later he discovered that efforts were being made to contact Sir Cliff’s representatives and he now had a “greater appreciation” of how complicated the process was..

A BBC spokesman said that the corporation had reported Sir Cliff’s “full denial of the allegations at every stage”.

South Yorkshire Police agreed to pay Sir Cliff Richard £400,000 after settling a claim he brought against the force, the judge has heard.

Sir Cliff had initially also sued South Yorkshire Police after complaining about coverage of the raid. But Mr Justice Mann was told how in May 2017 that dispute had been settled.



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