Press freedom is crucial but filming Sir Cliff raid was a step too far

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In recent years there has been a blizzard of stories about celebrity sexual abuse.

There was a widespread and fully justified sense of horror, dismay and alarm that such a famous entertainer as Jimmy Savile was later found to have been such a prolific abuser for so long, with nothing done about it.

That and other cases, coming as the scale of institutional sex abuse has been better understood, has caused soul searching within broadcasters and the criminal justice system.

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But the concerns, while disturbing entirely appropriate, have now led us into a fresh problem, in which the essential approach of listening to and investigating allegations of abuse has at times seemed to lead to a presumption of guilt.

The Operation Midland inquiry into reports of the sexual homicide of children by VIPs later collapsed without charges being brought, and there was severe criticism of the Metropolitan Police for pursuing the claims of at least one possible fantasist.

Amid all this in 2014, there was an extraordinary sequence of events surrounding Sir Cliff Richard. His home was raided by police after he was alleged to have sexually assaulted people.

But the raid was not merely filmed by TV, it was broadcast live on the BBC, which clearly had advance notice of it.

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This newspaper is a long-standing and emphatic supporter of the right to a free press. We want to see libel reform in Northern Ireland, to enhance that principle. But the prospect of police raids being filmed live is an alarming one. Police forces or individual officers should not divulge prior warning of raids.

There is debate as to whether people charged with sex offences should be named prior to any conviction, given that some defendants have later been shown to have been framed. It is hard for anyone acquitted of sex crime to recover reputation.

Granting anonymity in sex cases would set a problematic legal precedent and there are reasons why it should not happen, as well as reasons why it should. But raids on the homes of people who have not been charged (and who in this case will not be) are a gross intrusion of privacy, as Sir Cliff says.