BBC 'cover up' over Sir Cliff raid

The BBC has been accused of a cover-up in events concerning the police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's house

The BBC has been accused of a cover-up in events concerning the police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's house

First published in National News © by

The BBC has been accused of a "cover up" over its role in the police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's flat following sexual assault allegations.

South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton claimed the corporation appeared to "distance itself from what had happened" after it broadcast the raid on the pop star's penthouse.

The BBC, which had a film crew on the scene, broke the news of the search but has been heavily criticised for its handling of the story.

Mr Crompton said the BBC's misleading and inaccurate portrayal of its involvement in what happened led to the force making a formal complaint.

Keith Vaz, home affairs committee chairman, said the claims were a "matter of deep concern".

He has summoned the chief constable and BBC d irector general Tony Hall to appear before the committee on September 2.

The singer'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.

Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal when the search took place, has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Crompton said the force was approached by a BBC journalist with detailed information about its investigation.

It "reluctantly agreed" to give the reporter notice of the day officers planned to search the property to dissuade the corporation from publishing details in advance and protect the "integrity of the investigation".

"It was not done in order to maximise publicity, contrary to some press reports," he wrote in a letter to Mr Vaz.

Mr Crompton said an article appeared on the BBC website on the afternoon of the raid that suggested there had been a deliberate attempt to "ensure maximum coverage" by the force.

"The force contacted the BBC but the corporation refused to withdraw or adapt the article," he said in the letter.

"This appeared to be an attempt by the BBC to distance itself from what had taken place and cover up the fact that it had initiated contact with the force about the story.

"This was misleading and was known by the BBC to be inaccurate."

Lord Hall has insisted that BBC journalists "acted appropriately" in its coverage of the story.

MPs on the committee will grill both men separately in an afternoon session in the first week back after the summer recess.

Mr Vaz said: "These are serious matters which deal with the sensitive issue of how the police conduct their investigations.The balance between mass and individual public interest must be struck appropriately and the relationships between the police and the media must always be ethical.

" I am grateful for the information provided, however, it raises even more questions. In his letter the chief constable accuses the BBC of a 'cover up' which is a matter of deep concern."

Sir Cliff's fans have rallied round the veteran star since the allegation became public and are showing their support by buying copies of his 1992 Number Seven hit I Still Believe in You with the song headed for this weekend's Top 40.

Lord Hall said the police investigation into the pop star was " clearly a significant story".

In a letter to Mr Vaz, released on Thursday, he said: "I believe that BBC journalists have acted appropriately in pursuing this story. As you rightly say, the media has a right to report on matters of public interest.

"Sir Cliff Richard is one of the most successful British entertainers of all time and has been a prominent public figure for several decades. Investigations into historic sex abuse cases have - and will continue to have - a profound impact on the lives of well-known individuals and the standing of public institutions.

"The disclosure of a sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard and the police search of his property was clearly a significant story and the BBC was not alone in providing extensive coverage."

A BBC spokesman said: "We have set out our position. The story was clearly in the public interest. The police complained specifically about an analysis piece on the BBC website and subsequently, and highly unusually, we confirmed that South Yorkshire Police was not the source of our story."

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