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.