Media commentators are already declaiming Justice Mann’s judgment in favour of Cliff Richard over the BBC as a “dark day for press freedom”. Rubbish. These arguments are specious. The public interest and public prurience should not be conflated. The public interest must not be determined by the media alone. The Human Rights Act (which Theresa May despises) has something to say on the matter. We are not dealing here with the Cambridge Analytica story or the Paradise Papers – examples of a clear public interest uncovered by investigative journalists (not the BBC).
Pre-empting the judicial process by publicising the earliest stage of an investigation encourages fishing trips and chancers. We have seen much of that post-Savile. Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news, cited Harris, Hall and Clifford in aid but pointedly omitted the innocent, like Paul Gambaccini, Jimmy Tarbuck and many others. In Cliff Richard’s’s case, the