South Yorkshire Police comes clean about BBC Cliff Richard tip-off - Press Gazette

South Yorkshire Police comes clean about BBC Cliff Richard tip-off

South Yorkshire police has “clarified” its position admitting now that it did tip off the BBC about the raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home last Thursday.

BBC cameras and a helicopter were on hand to film the arrival unmarked police cars at Richard’s home at around 10.30am.

Press Gazette asked South Yorkshire Police on Thursday:
“Can you shed any light on Cliff Richard’s assertion in his statement that the press were notified in advance about the decision to search his apartment?”

To which the force press office replied: "The BBC had their own sources. The information was not released by South Yorkshire Police.”

A BBC spokeswoman told Press Gazette that the corporation received the information about the raid at the same time as other media.

Now the force has admitted that it was working with a BBC reporter on the Richard investigation and did tip them off about the raid.

It said in a statement: “South Yorkshire Police has taken steps to clarify the involvement of the BBC in a search carried out by officers at a property in Berkshire on Thursday (14 August).

“The warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s, involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time. 

“At no point in this investigation has South Yorkshire Police leaked information. This has been confirmed publicly by the BBC.

“The facts are as follows:

“The force was contacted some weeks ago by a BBC reporter who made it clear he knew of the existence of an investigation. It was clear he [was] in a position to publish it.

“The force was reluctant to cooperate but felt that to do otherwise would risk losing any potential evidence, so in the interests of the investigation it was agreed that the reporter would be notified of the date of the house search in return for delaying publication of any of the facts.

“Contrary to media reports, this decision was not taken in order to maximise publicity, it was taken to preserve any potential evidence.

“South Yorkshire Police considers it disappointing that the BBC was slow to acknowledge that the force was not the source of the leak.

“A letter of complaint has been sent to the Director General of the BBC making it clear that the broadcasters appears to have contravened it’s editorial guidelines.

“South Yorkshire Police would welcome an investigation into the original leak.

“Finally we want to stress that this is an ongoing and complex investigation and we are in the process of gathering evidence. This is likely to take some time and we would caution against any reporting which may be prejudicial. This is in the interests of all parties.”

The BBC has been questioned by some for naming Richard before he has been arrested or charged.

But publicity around the search is said to have prompted new potential witnesses to come forward with information.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "A BBC journalist approached South Yorkshire Police with information about the investigation. We followed normal journalistic practice and agreed not to publish a story that might jeopardise a police inquiry. We have also confirmed that South Yorkshire Police were not the original source for the story. The BBC has now received a letter from South Yorkshire Police regarding the situation and will respond in due course."  

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Mail: "What the BBC has done amounts to blackmail.

"I think there should be an external inquiry to find out what happened, not an internal BBC one. This is shocking behaviour by a publicly funded national broadcaster."



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette