Public should know what police are doing, says Cliff Richard case reporter

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A BBC reporter who broke a story about Sir Cliff Richard’s home being searched by police following a child sex assault allegation has defended the media’s right to report early stages of investigations.

Dan Johnson on Thursday told a High Court judge that “the story” had not been about the singer being “guilty” but about him being “investigated”.

He accepted that such a report could be damaging.

But he said that did not mean that journalists did not have a “right to report”.

Mr Johnson outlined this thoughts while giving evidence to Mr Justice Mann at a High Court trial in London on Thursday.

Sir Cliff has sued 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.

“The story was never about Sir Cliff being investigated,” said Mr Johnson.

“The story was that he was being investigated, that the police were searching his flat.”

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.”

The journalist was answering questions from barrister Justin Rushbrooke QC, who is leading Sir Cliff’s legal team.

Sir Cliff listened to Mr Johnson’s evidence from a seat near the back of the court.

The trial continues.

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