Losing the right to smear

The singer Cliff Richard has won a case against the BBC for their coverage of a police raid on his house over a claim that he was a paedophile. He was never charged with any offence and both the police and the BBC have to pay him damages and his court costs.

The British media is moaning because the judgement in the case seems to rule that in future a persons name cannot be published until they have been charged with an offence.

They claim that "the case marked a "significant shift" against press freedom and an "important principle" around the public's right to know was at stake.

I don't agree.

Neither did the judge.  "In his judgement, Mr Justice Mann said a suspect in a police investigation "has a reasonable expectation of privacy" and while Sir Cliff being investigated "might be of interest to the gossip-monger", there was not a "genuine public interest" case."

A former chief constable for British Transport Police said: "Generally speaking, I see no reason for the public to know people have been arrested.  The person arrested carry the stigma of that arrest for a long time."

I think it is right that the media should not be able to damage a persons reputation by reporting they are being investigated and will now have to wait until they are charged.  If they are not charged their anonymity will be protected.

The media have lost the right to smear a person just to get a scoop.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC's director of news, said that the ruling is a "significant shift against press freedom".  No its not. Though it is a blow to the unethical who think their desire to get a scoop justifies invading someone's privacy and destroying their reputation.

Fran Unsworth
The Wikipedia article on Ms Unsworth observes 'In August 2014, Unsworth ordered helicopter filming of a police raid on a mansion belonging to Cliff Richard. The coverage led to the singer suing the BBC for breach of privacy. '

I have been following this story on the BBC web site and I cannot recall them ever mentioning who at the BBC was responsible for sending helicopters to spy on Richards home when it was being raided by the police. Could Wikipedia be right?  Was it The Franster?

I would now like to know who at the BBC decided not to settle Richard's claim out of court but instead take it to trial. The result of that brilliant decision has been legal costs and damages in the millions that will have to be met by the TV licence fee payers. Plus a court judgement that The Franster claims infringes 'press freedom'.

You might also have noticed how the BBC news department [headed by The Franster] has managed to spin the story so that it is about press freedom and not about two very expensive  and very bad decisions by the BBC.

The BBC defends

I listened to David Jordan, the BBC's director of editorial policy and standards being interviewed by a BBC journalist [senior BBC manager interviewed by more junior member of same organisation. That's the  way to get at the truth. I assume Mr Jordan's mum was not available to do the interview.]

His answer to almost every slightly tricky question was to say that the BBC would have to consider that issue. The police raid was four years ago. Haven't the BBC found time to think about the case and their actions during the past four years? No meetings? No time to put the old thinking caps on?

David Jordan said resignations were "not necessarily the right response to every mistake that every journalist makes in a news organisation". Oh, I don't know. I think applying a blowlamp to some BBC tootsies would do the organisation a world of good. If they have trouble drawing up a list of sackable people I can think of a few names.

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