The Yorkshire Post says: Rights of suspects. Sir Cliff Richard, the BBC and the police

The entertainer Sir Cliff Richard after he won his High Court privacy battle.
The entertainer Sir Cliff Richard after he won his High Court privacy battle.
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SIR CLIFF Richard’s victory in his High Court privacy battle over broadcast coverage of a police search of the entertainer’s home has profound repercussions for South Yorkshire Police, the BBC and, possibly, the freedom of the Press.

First the police: by settling out of court, and agreeing to pay £400,000 to Sir Cliff who, it should be stressed, never faced any charges, the embattled South Yorkshire force moved quickly to right a clear wrong, and spared taxpayers the prospect of an even greater bill.

Now the BBC: the tone of its coverage, use of a helicopter with a long-lens camera to film the raid and the pressure it placed on South Yorkshire Police points to the Corporation, ordered to pay £210,000 to Sir Cliff, being driven by a desire for a sensationalist story rather than respecting established conventions on responsible reporting.

And then press freedom: some believe a potential consequence of the legal precedent set by this ruling is that it could be more difficult to report such cases in future, regardless of whether they involve high-profile public figures or not.

We do not believe this to be the case. The Yorkshire Post has hundreds of years of proven checks and balances, and a moral compass, that has served it well since 1754. This ruling will not change our guiding principles. For, as Theresa May said in response to a call to prohibit the naming of a suspect until they’re charged, she says there will be occasions when the disclosure of a suspect’s identity leads to other witnesses and victims coming forward, and that the onus is on the media – and the police – to act responsibly.