South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner has announced an inquiry will take place into how the Sir Cliff Richard investigation became public.
Shaun Wright has said ‘questions need to be answered’ about the original source of the leak, which South Yorkshire Police say did not come from them.
The force has admitted doing a deal with a BBC reporter who approached them with information about the investigation. Police provided the BBC with the date of their search of Sir Cliff’s house in Berkshire in exchange for the broadcaster delaying publication of the story.
Both the BBC and the police have been criticised for the search of Sir Cliff’s house in Berkshire in connection with an allegation of a sexual nature involving a boy under 16 becoming public.
The inquiry concerns an alleged assault claimed to have taken place at an appearance by American evangelist Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985.
Sir Cliff has denied the charges as ‘completely false’ and said he was angry he had not been given notice of the house search, but the press had.
Mr Wright has said the publication of Sir Cliff’s name in relation to the allegation raises concerns about ‘ethical conduct’, particularly given the Leveson Inquiry into press conduct which said the names of suspects should not be made public unless there are ‘exceptional and clearly identified circumstances’, such as an immediate risk to public safety.
He said: “The commissioner is committed to ensuring that the policing needs of South Yorkshire communities are met, and this includes effectively addressing and investigating any concerns raised, including those in relation to ethical conduct. In light of the outcomes of the Leveson Inquiry, the commissioner will be looking very carefully at the catalogue of events which took place in relation to this investigation and any necessary actions will be taken.
“Questions need to be answered as to the original source of the leak, which put the force in a difficult position when approached by the media. In the meantime, working to protect the integrity of this investigation has been, and will continue to be of the utmost importance. It would therefore not be appropriate at this stage to comment any further on operational policing issues when an investigation is ongoing.”
His comments come as South Yorkshire Police announced it had complained to the BBC about the broadcaster’s reporting of the investigation.
The force has written to the director general of the BBC Tony Hall to say it believes the broadcaster has ‘contravened its editorial guidelines’.
But the BBC has said it followed ‘normal journalistic practice’ in its reporting of the story.
A police spokesman said the force had been contacted several weeks ago by a BBC reporter with information about the investigation. He said the force was ‘reluctant to co-operate’ but gave the reporter the date of the house search in return for delaying publication.
The spokesman said: “This decision was not taken in order to maximise publicity, it was taken to preserve any potential evidence. SYP considers it disappointing the BBC was slow to acknowledge 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 its editorial guidelines.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC agreed to follow normal journalistic practice and not to publish a story that might jeopardise a police inquiry.”