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Select Committee says BBC “acted perfectly properly” on Cliff Richard reporting

By | Published on Wednesday 3 September 2014

Cliff Richard

Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee has concluded that the BBC did not act improperly in its coverage of the recent raid on Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home. Even though at a hearing yesterday Chief Constable for South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, told the Committee that the BBC had put his force in “a very difficult position”.

As previously reported, Richard’s house was searched last month in relation to accusations of sexual assault of a boy under the age of sixteen by the singer in 1985. Accusations the star denies. South Yorkshire Police subsequently complained to the BBC over its conduct in reporting the case.

The police force said that it had agreed to inform the broadcaster of the date of the search, in exchange for it not publishing information it had received on the case some weeks earlier. However, said the police, after the search, various media reports suggested that South Yorkshire Police had leaked information on its own initiative “in order to maximise publicity”, and that the BBC had been “slow to acknowledge” that this was not the case.

Crompton said: “We were placed in a very difficult position because of the original leak and the BBC came to us knowing everything that we knew, as far as the investigation was concerned. My concern was that if we showed the BBC the door, the very clear impression which had been left with my staff in the media department was that they were likely to publish the story. That would have impeded our investigation. I’m confident that we made the right decision in difficult and unusual circumstances”.

The select committee, however, did not agree, with Chairman Keith Vaz accusing the police force of “sheer incompetence” in its handling of the matter. Vaz asked why, once aware that the BBC knew about his force’s investigation, the Chief Constable had not contacted senior management at the Corporation to ask them not to run the story, rather than doing a deal with the journalist direct.

Crompton argued that he “did not really have that much faith” that the story would be withheld, even if management intervened, which is what led to the agreement to inform reporters of when the search would take place.

But ultimately, Vaz said that the Committee had concluded that the BBC had “acted perfectly properly in respect of this matter”.