Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard was under investigation over allegations of historical sexual abuse for two years Getty

The BBC has publicly defended its decision to film a police raid at the home of Sir Cliff Richard when he was investigated for historical sex abuse allegations.

The public broadcaster and South Yorkshire Police worked together to arrange filming of the raid, which took place at the singer's home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in 2014.

An independent investigation later concluded that South Yorkshire Police should not have released the "highly confidential" information about the planned search, but once the information was in the hands of the BBC, the broadcaster claims it was "squarely" in the public interest to use it.

The 76-year-old singer is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police for £1.5m ($1.9m) in damages and legal fees because he says the coverage invaded his privacy.

Richard also claims the coverage, and the subsequent historic child abuse claims levelled at him, caused "profound and long-lasting" damage.

In a statement released on Wednesday (7 December) however, a spokesman for the BBC defended the organisation's actions.

"As we have said on several occasions, we are very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard has suffered distress. However, we have now submitted our response to this claim and will defend ourselves vigorously."

Reporting on police investigations into prominent figures was "squarely in the public interest", the BBC's statement said. The statement added that the corporation "stands by the decision to report the investigation undertaken by the South Yorkshire Police and the search of his property".

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it would not prosecute Richard on the grounds of insufficient evidence in June 2016. The BBC also appeared at the High Court in London on Wednesday, where initial legal papers were lodged.

Gavin Millar QC, representing the broadcaster, said: "It is denied that the claimant is entitled to damages or compensation as alleged at all.

"It is admitted that the claimant suffered distress."

He added: "The BBC has already told the claimant it is very sorry that this was the case."