BOTH South Yorkshire Police and the BBC have been criticised
after the Corporation broadcast footage of officers searching Sir
Cliff Richard's home live on television last week.
The police were acting on an allegation that Sir Cliff had
sexually assaulted a boy aged under 16 during a Billy Graham rally
in Sheffield in 1985.
In a statement from Portugal, where he is staying, Sir Cliff
strongly denied the claim. He has not been arrested or charged.
Sir Cliff also complained that the media had been told about the
search before he had. The BBC said that it had approached South
Yorkshire Police several weeks ago, after a tip-off about the
investigation into Sir Cliff. A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC
followed normal journalistic practice and agreed not to publish a
story that might jeopardise a police inquiry."
It instead struck a deal with the force that, in return for not
immediately reporting the allegation, it would be told when the
search would take place, in order to ensure live TV coverage.
Alex Marshall, Chief Constable of the College of Policing, which
sets ethical guidelines for police forces, said that if an officer
had leaked the information to the BBC, he or she should be "held to
The veteran broadcaster and former BBC journalist Sir Michael
Parkinson has strongly criticised the BBC, telling ITV News that a
"witch-hunt" was under way. The former policing minister Nick
Herbert has also criticised the BBC's "editorial judgement" over
The BBC later acknowledged that its original source of
information had not been South Yorkshire Police, but not before the
force had sent a complaint to the BBC.
The BBC's Director-General, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, and the
Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, have
been summoned to the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain to
MPs the circumstances behind the raid and the BBC's coverage. Some
480 people have complained to the BBC about its broadcasting of the
live footage of the search.
South Yorkshire Police has said that the media coverage of the
raid has produced further leads in its 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," a spokesman said last
A planned appearance by Sir Cliff in Canterbury Cathedral in
September, at an event to raise funds for its restoration work, has
been cancelled, he announced on Tuesday. In a statement, his
spokesman said that he did not want the event to be "overshadowed"
by the allegations against him.
Sir Cliff is also an official Friend of Tearfund. In a
statement, the charity said that it was "disturbed" to hear of the
allegations, and that its thoughts and prayers were with "everyone
Meanwhile, fans of Sir Cliff are attempting to get his 1992
ballad "I Still Believe In You" into the charts, as a sign of
support for the 73-year-old singer. The track was the most
downloaded song on Amazon.co.uk on Tuesday.
Question of the week: Should the police and the BBC have
broadcast the investigation into Sir Cliff