BBC and police face Cliff questions

The BBC and South Yorkshire Police face questions over the search at Sir Cliff Richard's home

The BBC and South Yorkshire Police face questions over the search at Sir Cliff Richard's home

First published in National News © by

The BBC and the police force that led the search of Sir Cliff Richard's home are facing increasing scrutiny over a leak row.

Director-general of the BBC Tony Hall and chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton will face a grilling by MPs over the affair, and the force's police and crime commissioner has launched an independent review of what happened.

A row erupted when the BBC broke news of the search of the pop star's Berkshire penthouse last Thursday, with a crew reportedly arriving on the scene before the police.

Mr Crompton and Lord Hall have been warned to stand ready to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) after Parliament returns from recess.

HASC chairman Keith Vaz has written to Mr Crompton and Lord Hall asking a series of questions about how the BBC found out about the planned search, and asked them to reply by midday on Friday.

Meanwhile South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright has appointed former chief constable Andy Trotter, who helped draw up press relations guidance for the College of Policing, to lead a probe into the affair.

His spokeswoman said: "Earlier today the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner held meetings to review the chronology of events which led to South Yorkshire Police's decision to notify the BBC of the date of the house search, which took place in Berkshire on 14 August, in order to protect the integrity of their investigation.

"As a result of today's meetings, he has decided to commission an independent review of the events which took place to form the rationale behind their decision making.

"The commissioner is keen to ensure a full, fair and transparent analysis of actions taken and to determine if they were aligned with the College of Policing guidance on relationships with the media relevant to such disclosure.

"Following the acknowledgement by the BBC that South Yorkshire Police was not the original source of the leak, questions still need to be answered as to the actual source of the leak."

Sir Cliff's apartment was searched by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police last week as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985.

The performer, who was in Portugal when the search took place, firmly denied any wrongdoing and hit out at the fact BBC journalists were apparently tipped off about the plan.

The broadcaster's head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro said that the information did not come from South Yorkshire Police, while the force said it had decided to work with the broadcaster to protect its investigation.

The force said: ''When a media outlet contacted South Yorkshire Police with information about an investigation, we took the decision to work with them in order to protect the integrity of that investigation.

''Since the search took place a number of people have contacted the police to provide information and we must acknowledge that the media played a part in that, for which we are grateful.''

Thames Valley Police said it had no contact with the media before the search warrant was executed.

Veteran broadcaster and former BBC journalist Sir Michael Parkinson weighed into the row yesterday in an interview with ITV, accusing his former employer of bad judgment.

"I think the BBC did create an error in judgment, not in understanding the story and having the story and trying to follow it through, but in reacting to the story in a kind of way that would have done the red tops credit.

''That's what's wrong with the BBC, I think, on this one. It was the manner in which they chose to actually cover the event - if you can call it an event."

Mr Vaz has asked Lord Hall how and when the broadcaster discovered the plan, when they first contacted South Yorkshire Police and whether the force had confirmed the time and date of the search.

The director-general must also explain when he first knew about the planned coverage of the search, who authorised use of the broadcaster's helicopter to film it, why the police have complained to the BBC and whether he believes any BBC journalist has acted inappropriately.

It is accepted practice that journalists will not reveal the identity of confidential sources.

Mr Crompton has been asked to detail who in the force knew about the search and who else might have found out; when he and the force's press team were made aware; how many times the force had confirmed the time of a search to journalists; and whether the search had been delayed or brought forward.

He has also been asked whether he believes any officer has acted inappropriately, why the force had complained to the BBC, when the broadcaster asked for more information about the search and what agreement was in place about reports of the process.

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."

The broadcaster said in a further statement that it would reply to Mr Vaz "in due course", but it would not be appropriate to go into detail about "editorial processes".

A spokesman said: "Mr Vaz understands and supports the right of the media to report matters in the public interest.

"The BBC's editorial independence is protected by our Royal Charter and is highly valued by the public. The BBC does not name its sources nor is it appropriate to go into detail around editorial processes."

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree