FAKING NEWS: Sir Cliff Judge slaps down "erroneous" reporting
THE HIGH Court judge in Sir Cliff Richard’s landmark privacy ruling has hit out at widespread “erroneous” reporting claiming the case undermines Press freedom in the UK.
Speaking at the Rolls Building in London’s legal quarter, Mr Justice Mann stopped short - just - of branding the editorial response by newspapers such as The Times, The Sun and The Mirror as ‘fake news’.
But, while refusing to allow the BBC to appeal his decision, which gives police suspects an expectation of privacy until charged with an offence, he said: “It is simply wrong to suggest there is now some blanket restriction on reporting investigations.”
The judge spoke out after many newspaper editors attacked his ruling, which for the first time protects innocent suspects from media accusations of criminality, during a week of febrile coverage of the Sir Cliff ruling.
Justice Mann’s decision was condemned variously as having “worrying consequences” for free speech, hindering police investigations, and as preventing proper scrutiny of the police in its work.
Byline has been reporting on coverage by The Sun - which mistakenly ‘outed’ and attacked the wrong judge - and The Times, whose readers wrote letters of support for the Sir Cliff decision.
Coincidentally, Justice Mann is the managing judge in an upcoming series of trials alleging phone hacking, widespread unlawful newsgathering, and a high level cover up at The Sun, and separately a series of trials alleging similar activities at Mirror Group Newspapers.
Today The Sun continued to attack the ruling – branding it “terrible” and demanding it be appealed - because it has been told not to publish the name of a union official accused of indecent exposure, in order to preserve his right to a “fair and impartial” investigation.
The expectation of privacy does not extend to any suspect actually charged with criminal wrongdoing, meaning The Sun is complaining at having to observe the maxim that people are “innocent until proven guilty”.
Denying the BBC the right to appeal his decision and £210,000 general damages award in Sir Cliff’s favour - a sum likely to rise to account for loss of earnings - Justice Mann said BBC lawyers had not established that an appeal had a “real” chance of succeeding.
The BBC must also pay Sir Cliff’s estimated £850,000 legal costs although chiefs can still make a further separate application to a Court of Appeal judge.
Barrister Justin Rushbrooke QC, for Sir Cliff, said the 77-year-old singer had spent more than £3m defending his name.
He sued over "serious and sensationalist” BBC coverage - including helicopter shots - of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, following an historic assault allegation.
Sir Cliff was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.
After his High Court victory, Sir Cliff said: “The break-in (police raid) to my apartment was three years, 11 months, four days ago and I thought 'I'm passed all that now, it's in my past' but I find I still can't speak about it too well, I'm controlling myself at the moment but I'm sure when I speak to people about this again I shall be weeping again.”
Choking up, he added: “It's just the most wonderful relief, not just for me, my business manager, my secretary, my friends, my family, they've suffered it with me and I'm not sure that they deserve that.”