Why there should be no Cliff’s Law following the chilling judgement by Mr Justice Mann

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High Court decision on Sir Cliff Richard should not mean a new law

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The scathing judgement by Mr Justice Mann condemning the BBC for the invasion of  Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy has profound implications for crime reporting.

The BBC is condemned  for reporting the raid on his home following allegations of child sexual abuse which did not stand up- not just for the sensational way they did it – but for reporting it at all.

This is a double edged judgement. True the freedom of the press to do this has led to innocent people like  DJ Paul Gambaccini and Sir Cliff suffering enormous traumatic stress and having their reputations trashed over unproven child sex abuse allegations.

But in other cases noticeably broadcaster Stuart Hall, the entertainer Rolf Harris ( both child sexual abuse allegations) and for that matter ( on perverting the course of justice)  ex Liberal  Democrat  Cabinet minister and former colleague on the Guardian, Chris Huhne, press publicity helped the police to pursue the cases to a successful conclusion. The publicity before anybody was charged led to more people coming forward or to new evidence being discovered.

That is why I would like to see the decision challenged  because of its profound implications for reporting and would certainly not want a new law giving anonymity to suspects in criminal cases.

Thankfully Theresa May seems to have ruled out the latter and so have ministers and  some MPs.

  On BBC Radio 5 Live last week  Treasury minister Robert  Jenrick said that he didn’t believe that the law should be changed to give anonymity to people accused of certain offences.

He said:“There’s been a long debate, as you know, about whether that should be the case for particular types of crime – crimes which have such a serious effect on individuals’ personal reputations, like sexual offences for example.  And at the moment we’ve chosen not to proceed on that basis.  We don’t think we should discriminate between different offences.  And I think that that’s probably the right approach.  But I do feel that both the police and the media need to proceed with great caution when they’re reporting.”

His point is where you draw the line. A limited law saying only those accused of child sex abuse should be protected could be seen  by victims and survivors as ” a protect paedos” law. And if there is discrimination between offences it won’t be long before some famous personality brings a case – saying their reputation was damaged by a police raid on their home in say, a fraud case.

Also do you protect alleged murderers or low life drug dealers from the press reporting raids on their homes until they are charged. After all until a drug dealer is charged  reporting a police raid on his or her home is breaching their privacy. It could also have implications for some of the popular reality  TV crime programmes.

Why I also don’t want the law to change is that it is a matter of judgement for the police and the press to come to a conclusion. The police need to be able to judge whether publicity is necessary – even Mr Justice Mann admits in his judgement that if people’s lives are at risk there is a case for naming a suspect.

The media also need to show some judgement on how they report the issue as well – and sometimes investigations can be published without naming the suspect  or giving too much of  the suspect’s identity away. In other cases the suspect’s name is part of the story.

Finally I see that the  BBC reporter Dan Johnson  who broke the story gets some criticism from the judge. He is described as honest and over enthusiastic. The judge says:

“I do not believe that he is a fundamentally dishonest man, but he was capable of letting his enthusiasm get the better of him in pursuit of what he thought was a good story so that he could twist matters in a way that could be described as dishonest in order to pursue his story.”

Some ten years ago Dan Johnson was our principal researcher for a book I wrote jointly with author and journalist Francis Beckett, on the miner’s strike of 1984. Called Marching to the Fault Line.

This is what we said about Dan in the book:

” A talented young journalist, Dan Johnson, was our principal researcher, conducting some of our most important interviews. Because of his deep knowledge of mining communities, and because he was brought up in Arthur Scargill’s village of Worsbrough, he turned into a great deal more than our researcher: he was also also a thoughtful and knowledgeable guide to what it all meant.”

In my view enthusiasm is vital if you are to be a good journalist. Journalists who are not enthusiastic about their job aren’t real journalists.

 

20 thoughts on “Why there should be no Cliff’s Law following the chilling judgement by Mr Justice Mann

  1. Interesting comments. Bit as they do in USA, Switzerland it is simple. Ensure you have sufficient evidence first before go naming. Because if found innocent then it should also be fair that the same level of enthusiasm and coverage be given to show that person’s innocence and the negligence by the reporting journalist and the relevant media executives charged for attemp to pervert course of justice.
    The stigma will not go away unless the same level of exposure given to show their innocence and the offending DA and police and media are prosecuted and banned from practice.
    This abuse happens too often in the UK and only the rich can fight back.
    Do David before you go on your high pedestal remember it could be your or your friends or your family next. Do not wait until it happens to you.

    Remember the man who killed the burglar in Lewisham in 2018. Remember the head social services director a black lady in Nottingham who criticize Tony Martin case but when it came to her son she changed her view say you should have right defend your life and home. GET IT David.

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  2. Hi David
    Been on your website for ages and it is great. How come nobody gets the sack from the BBC if the media are to have freedom’s they should be responsible. The Newsnight disaster where Peter Rippon spiked the Jimmy Savile story he could not even spell name right and the disgraceful treatment of the much missed Liz Mackean gives an idea of the gross ineptitude and cowardice that goes to the top. A Daily Mirror reporter said that if we found that the police were going to arrest a neighbour we would all be there with our camera phones – really ?

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    • I absolutely agree with you re Liz and the failure of Newsnight’s edeitor. I was not defending how the BBC covered it which was very sensational but the judge’s ruling which was that no one should know. If that applied now I expect people would notice a police raid on property and there would be speculation on Twitter and Facebook which would be equally damaging and much harder to stifle.

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  3. People should not be named until charged in sex related cases. The press blab on about press freedom but this is about the mental wellbeing of innocent individuals. The press deserve to have their wings clipped because they do not behave responsibly. There is such a witch hunt going on around sex offences and the press feed this frenzy.
    People are innocent until proven guilty and innocent people are having their lives and mental health ruined by inaccurate accusations.

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    • worse than that…when the state doesn’t want to do what they did to Cliff here as they know they’ll have no chance in court…they slam you straight into mental prison and avoid the so called legal system entirely! you NEVER recover from that kind of abuse, reputation is destroyed yes but that’s more of a side note to the physical and mental damage done to people there…..the crazy pop. in England and Wales has been growing by 40 every single year for last decade and a half, according to govt.’s own stats…..it’s not because the CIA is still going aroundputting LSD into people’s bread i tell you…. 😦

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  4. Pingback: David Hencke Westminster and Whitehall news investigations Why there should be no Cliff’s Law following the chilling judgement by Mr Justice Mann | HOLLIE GREIG JUSTICE : SUPPORTING FRESH START @FSFtruthjustice

  5. There are good arguments on both sides of this debate. I note that the Guardian’s respected media commentator Roy Greenslade, and other media, including Tory media such as the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, are in agreement with David – a rare occasion of left and right wing media being largely in agreement.

    It is worth nothing that though the BBC reported on the search of Cliff Richards house and have now been rapped on the knuckles for doing so, previously, a tabloid, without naming him strongly hinted that his name was on the (now discredited) Elm Guest House list. The language used was of the ‘world famous pop star with a clean living image’ type. They knew (the tabloid, that is) what they were doing – a concerned citizen, or alternatively someone wishing to make trouble – could have gone online and easily found the list. Accordingly, it is arguable that the tabloid helped to encourage the now discredited allegations against Cliff Richard, although as far as I am aware none of the claimants directly linked him to that guest house.

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    • Yes the Elm Guest House reference is interesting. When I researched this it was clear that the gay bed and breakfast was both a place where gay consenting adults stayed and was also used by paedophiles- so one has to be very careful about categorising who was alleged to have stayed there. We got irrefutable evidence ( ie a medical report) that one boy was abused there but the person has never wished to go public so the story has never been written. The list certainly has to be treated with caution particularly as the people who are alleged to have stayed there often didn’t use their real names – such was the stigma against gay people at that time. Intriguingly the court judgement includes a reference to Elm Guest House in one of the BBC documents.

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      • You haven’t been able to stay in a hotel/ guest house or any such type establishment since 1972 if memory serves under a false name. They’re supposedly required by law to tell the pigyobs….so it’s not safe to stay there anymore and when you return home you’re legally obliged to burn your house down along with all your possessions, perversely. I found a bit shocking when I first heard as it obviously contradicts DPA and Article 8.

        Cash is no longer accepted, you have to give the establishment your bank details, address etc. who in turn pass it on to the pigyobs. Can’t get a bank account without multiple forms of state sanctioned photo ID and you can’t get any state sanctioned photo ID unless you have a bank account and AGREE to have it linked to said document. This is also the reason why homeless people were dying on the street few months back even when free hotel rooms had been donated to them They had no ID.

        12 1/2 years i have been in this situation forced to work as a slave for state sanctioned pedophiles.

        There is no innocent before guilty anymore. You have to prove you exist everywhere and at every turn in this fucked up society. Why nobody writing about this huge problem? Our numbers are only going to get bigger….even with us dying because of it.

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      • Sorry this was no deliberate censorship it was an error on my behalf as I was overwhelmed with the number of comments – some 200 on the pensions issue

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      • s’ok man, can understand that, was more surprised that you published any of them TBH, everywhere i get censored for speaking truth/ stating obvious facts that i think the majority are still unaware of 😦

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  6. Only one observation, would the money been paid to anyone be returnable? I was thinking in the case of Gordon Anglesea that the money he was awarded was never returned, when he was finally found guilty. The police spent too much money and time on a case that eventually would go nowhere, maybe they should have spent it investigating the connections Jim will fix it had in the North of England.

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  8. I’m appalled to see you take this kind of attitude to this David. Take solace in some of the comments though….maybe they’re ‘crazy’ to?

    Just generally I’m appalled and disgusted at what has happened to this country. It used to be illegal to film people/ their property without their consent. When was this repealed? I don’t think it ever was….Doubtful there was any law banning the sale of such footage to TV companies for entertainment but there didn’t need to be one as it was already illegal to film people without their consent. It used to be illegal to break into people’s homes, sometimes wearing masks and attack people….it probably still is.

    I’m old enough to remember PC Reg Hollis putting his hand down the drain for the house the police (back when we had actual police) just in case somebody flushed something down the toilet….Now the fuckers just smash up all your personal property, beat you abduct you, steal your stuff then sell your personal info to their mates via ACPO who come around and steal again and do yet more damage. If pigyobs know where u live you don’t know if your clothes are now emitting radio signals or whether or not cameras and other devices have been installed….this crime has been legalised….so, therefore, you’re legally obliged to burn your house down with all possessions in order to make it as safe as possible for next person living there 😦

    We used to have rule of law in this country and a certain standard of professionalism. If we had that this could have all been done sensibly. You can dispute the legality of the warrant after the fact….especially if it was so flimsy it was made up on somebody’s say so, which they usually are. Often people with anonymity and possibly don’t even exist, but that’s besides the point. Turn up. Be reasonable. Be respectful. The owner of the home (not necessarily the house owner) has every right to be there and supervise what you’re doing. So if they do smash anything up or plant anything you know which one did it. Cliff in this case is perfectly entitled to see the warrant, verify the warrant (doubtful any pigyob even knows about security protocols on faxes as 99% of the time they’re disabled) see and verify who these yobos are…that means name and ID. Although these days you can buy official official looking warrant cards off ebay…so it’s now technically impossible.

    Good news for Cliff…..but what about the tens of thousands of other people they do this shit to every year with immunity? Regardless of whether they’re convicted of something after the fact THIS is a violent crime and the perpetraitors belong in gaol. ‘Normal’ people like me can’t afford it, especially when we’ve had all our money stolen along with the means of making any as state stole my ID. Regardless of the fact that you can’t bring court proceedings now as you now need to consent to giving the state your bank details…..which is entirely unacceptable.

    But I also say the same on fuckers that work for 60 minute makeover, sarah beeney, kevin McCloud, dominic littledick……you go break into people’s homes or attacking them in the streets, raping with video cameras you DESERVE to get stabbed or whatever the victim chooses to defend themselves with. It’s the extra violation of privacy is WHY house burglars get years in gaol whilst shoplifters get a slap on the wrist. It’s now escalated to the point where pigyobs are being ordered to break into peoples homes for taking selfies of themselves and posting them on twatter.

    I mean c’mon, from a legal point of view….you return home one day to find hundred of people on your property, in your home…your personal possessions smashed up, rummaged through, some sitting in skips outside….you quickly realise that you’re so called friends have been covertly raping you with cameras all day…and then you got some demented she bitch shoving a microphone in your face surrounded by skin heads holding hammers, power tools and just leering/ grinning at you with bloody 60 minute makeover sign over their heads…..so you scream get the fuck off my property now! they refuse….you resort to force….they force their way back into your former home screaming we’re phoning da police…(doubtful they’re calling to hand themselves in) so you end up smashing the window to your living room and dragging their bloodied corpses off your property one by one…..you’re then tasered to death by anonymous psychopaths, best case scenario. more likely you survive and get ass raped in mental prison for rest of your life…..doubtful ever get to court as the law is surely on your side? and they can’t have that as they make way too much money from violent organised crime like this….

    Murder victims and suspects are entitled to their anonymity. Sure, after conviction you can name the convict….but victim after that? I said no…it does nothing for the news story to name them, post pictures of them….especially kids and when sexual abuse is involved….family and friends have rights to privacy as well. In this day and age you’re a young child that has been raped by uncle, lots of murders and things…horrible stuff…but you survive and decades later every time you apply for a job or move to a new city EVERYBODY KNOWS BECAUSE THEY GOOGLE YOU and you’re forced to constantly relive it.

    But it’s all about the money and what you can make from other people’s misery isn’t it David?

    Got nothing to do with freedom of the press….it’s a bit like mobile phone masks….the company that behaves ethically and removes it from right by the school end up with 3 times the costs as they need 3 times the masts for same coverage…they quickly go bankrupt…other company takes over and puts mask back where it was….

    if the state has any legitimate role in any of this it’s to ensure a level playing field surely? if the playing field is level you’d still make the same money David, pretty much…..but you’re just advocating profiteering from violent crime.

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  9. That said…I do see the other side of it. When there really is a case for the greater good….like when pigyobs are involved int he abuse themselves, i.e. always now it’s a job requirement, police refuse to even investigate…then there is quite clearly a case for folk like you David to report, make a living and hopefully help apply some pressure to get something done about it…..you ever heard of Melanie Shaw and numerous others? I know you have been involved in some ‘decent stuff’ which is why i follow you, but really you actually advocate this kind of behaviour? Think u need to sit yourself down and have a serious word with yourself tbh mate 😉

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  10. oh, and i did miss one very obvious point…..right to a fair trial and a jury trial? what typically happens in say any murder case….the supposed suspect is named and vilified in the media. supposed journalists doing the bidding of so called anonymous sources…..then years later after being totally destroyed on remand it’s trial by kangaroo…..how is it even possible to get an impartial jury who doesn’t already know that person is already guilty? For those who are even allowed the right of a jury trial these days….fuckers were celebrating Magna Carta anniversary not so long ago…but what are you celebrating? it was abolished sometime during Blair’s government from what I can gather…typical example is Melanie Shaw….years in solitary now, no tiral yet…no jury…no evidence the alleged neighbour even owned a shed! and i know what they done to me/ still doing as well……please people wake the fuck up and realise the kind of cuntry this is now! most of us dnt give a fuck about pensions when we’re not even a citizen anymore! and far more important things than money…..there was a time i would have quite happily fought and died for this country, because of the propaganda…not anymore! but i would do turn it back to what we supposedly had….more research you do the more you learn and realise this country is scum and getting worse by the day, nothing to be proud of…..

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  11. oh yeah, and another thing….if they had actually proceeded with the case Cliff would have undoubtedly been found guilty on contradictory hearsay and with a ‘corrupted jury’ as it wouldn’t have been possible to find an untainted jury with the BBC coverage. Then, even if he was able to PROVE his innocence ten years down the line he still wouldn’t have been entitled to compensation…that is the law now 😦

    Prime example being the Rolf Harris case. EXACTLY same thing happened there but they proceeded with it and got him convicted even AFTER defence lawyers (that only the rich can afford) managed to prove the witness was LYING on the stand. Most of us don’t even get the sham of tainted juries….but you also have got to wonder how many other times this has happened over the last decade or so….? Innocent until proven guilty was what I was always taught to believe but now it’s trial by so called experts and media who relay whatever they dictated by anonymous perps.

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  12. The allegations against Cliff were a smokescreen to derail the investigations that were supposed to happen into the extensive child abuse allegation against thirty-plus Westminster politicians – the police tipped off the bbc about the raid. And Cameron obviously foresaw the result, with his prepared announcement that he would not allow a ‘witch-hunt against gay people’ .
    Nobody else, though, confuses gays and child-abusers, Mr Cameron, except people who try to hide the latter behind the former.
    There was a gay social club, called the Monday club. Some of the politicians who were under suspicion of abusing children were also attendees at this gay club – there was an overlap between the two quite distinct things. Cliff Richard’s reputation was to be the collatoral in all this.
    At least the child abuse in the Catholic Church has been exposed and acknowledged, although they have a long way to go in bringing those responsible for the cover-up to account.
    The Westminster paedo-protection ring however is alive and well.

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    • One point if you mean the Monday Club – it was not a gay club – but a right wing Conservative group which stood for very traditional Conservative economic values and even defended the Empire at one stage. It may have had gay as well as heterosexual members but its principal rolw was not as a gay club

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