The Society of Editors has written to the Attorney General seeking clarification following the ruling in the case of Sir Cliff Richard versus the BBC.
The letter, addressed to Geoffrey Cox QC MP, outlines the Society’s concern following Mr Justice Mann’s ruling that it was unlawful of the BBC to have named Sir Cliff as being the subject of investigation by the police. It was announced last week that the BBC had decided not to appeal the High Court ruling despite the corporation’s belief that the ruling had erred in law.
In line with much of the media, the Society stated that it is of the opinion the ruling is a major change in the way in which the law of privacy is interpreted, in favour of the individual over the public’s right to know.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society wrote: “Mr Justice Mann’s ruling will undoubtedly place the press in a difficult position when it comes to reporting investigations being carried out by the police. There is already anecdotal evidence from members of our society that newsrooms are now unsure of what can and cannot be reported. Undoubtedly, should this ruling not be challenged, the public’s right to know and freedom of expression will be damaged.”
The Society went on to state that any law change should be debated at length in parliament.
It added: “The Society would maintain that such a major shift in how privacy is to be interpreted should be made by our elected representatives in Parliament and not come about as the result of the verdict in a single celebrity court case, not matter how high profile.
“We would hope that your office would now consider what steps could be taken to make this matter the subject of a parliamentary debate where representations can be made by the media and no doubt other organisations before any change in the law was enacted. Certainly, the Society of Editors would wish to offer its input with regard to this matter.”