South Yorkshire Police has complained to the BBC about its reporting of the Sir Cliff Richard sex offence inquiry. The force has written to the director general of the BBC saying it believes the broadcaster has "contravened its editorial guidelines."
BBC News crews were outside Sir Cliff's house in Sunningdale before officers from South Yorkshire Police began their searches there on Thursday. The broadcaster broke news of the police operation on its lunchtime bulletins. Since then, Sir Cliff and a number of MPs and prominent lawyers have criticised the involvement of the media.
South Yorkshire Police insists it did not leak information to the BBC, but instead agreed to tell a BBC reporter of the date that Sir Cliff's house would be searched in return for the BBC delaying publication of any of the facts. The force says the BBC reporter had contacted South Yorkshire Police some weeks earlier making it clear he knew of the existence of the investigation and although the force was reluctant to co-operate, it did so in order to preserve the integrity of its inquiry.
"The force was contacted some weeks ago by a BBC reporter who made it clear he knew of the existence of an investigation. It was clear he in a position to publish it. The force was reluctant to co-operate but felt that to do otherwise would risk losing any potential evidence, so in the interests of the investigation it was agreed that the reporter would be notified of the date of the house search in return for delaying publication of any of the facts. Contrary to media reports, this decision was not taken in order to maximise publicity, it was taken to preserve any potential evidence. South Yorkshire Police considers it disappointing that the BBC was slow to acknowledge that 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 broadcaster appears to have contravened its editorial guidelines.
South Yorkshire Police would welcome an investigation into the original leak. Finally we want to stress that this is an ongoing and complex investigation and we are in the process of gathering evidence. This is likely to take some time and we would caution against any reporting which may be prejudicial. This is in the interests of all parties."