Northern Irish TV star Gloria Hunniford was in court on Thursday during the start of a case revolving around Sir Cliff Richard, in which the singer’s lawyers pressed for a high level of damages over coverage of a police raid on his home.
Sir Cliff’s lawyers told the High Court in London that the singer should get significant compensation because BBC coverage of the 2014 raid, which followed a sex assault allegation, had caused him “great damage”.
The singer, now 77, denied the allegation and was not charged with any crime. BBC editors have said they will defend themselves “vigorously” in the case.
A barrister leading Sir Cliff’s legal team told Mr Justice Mann that BBC coverage of the raid, which occurred while he was abroad, was a “very serious invasion” of privacy, and had a “prolonged impact” on Sir Cliff.
Judge Mr Justice Mann heard that the singer had already agreed to accept a £400,000 payment from the South Yorkshire Police, which carried out the search.
When it comes to suing the BBC, Justin Rushbrook QC said: “We say this is a claim for an award at the very top end of the scale.”
He said the BBC coverage was “so disproportionate, and so intrusive, as to render it unlawful” – and all ultimately stemmed from “an allegation of serious criminal conduct which he [Sir Cliff] knew to be entirely false”.
Lawyers representing Sir Cliff said Gloria Hunniford was a “close and long-standing friend” of the singer and that she had made a witness statement in the case.
The presenter, who turned 78 on Tuesday, hugged and kissed Sir Cliff after the hearing adjourned for lunch.
She had told the BBC in 2016 about the effect the allegation had had upon Sir Cliff.
She said: “Cliff was never exactly fat, was he? But I have to tell you, when he gives you a hug these days [he’s] a bit of skin and bone because it’s taken, I believe, a terrible toll physically and mentally.”