Tuesday, February 24, 2015

British cops and BBC are savaged over Sir Cliff raid: Singer's privacy violated by secret deal to film swoop on his house over sex assault allegations, says report

Sir Cliff Richard had his privacy violated after a secret deal between police and the BBC to film a raid on his house, a report says.

The horrified pop star was left ‘unnecessarily distressed’ after learning police had swooped on his £3.5million home in Berkshire over a sex assault allegation dating from 1985 only when he saw it on TV while in Portugal.

Images were beamed live around the world last August from a camera filming from a helicopter.

Now a previously unpublished report says the deal between the BBC and the police should never have been done – suggesting Sir Cliff should not have been publicly humiliated in this way.

It brands senior officials at South Yorkshire Police incompetent and calls the BBC dishonest for its explanation of how it came to know about the raid.

After a BBC reporter approached the force, police chiefs allowed a reporting team including a camera crew to show officers searching the star’s home.

The coverage caused a major row, and the findings by independent investigator and former chief constable Andy Trotter will reignite the controversy.

Sir Cliff has not been arrested or charged. But many viewers said the BBC coverage made the 74-year-old singer look guilty.

The damning report – released to the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act – concludes:

* Police were wrong to confirm details of a ‘highly sensitive and confidential’ investigation to the BBC.

* They should not have held a secret meeting between a senior detective and a reporter to agree an exclusive deal.

* The force breached Sir Cliff’s privacy by effectively confirming his identity as the suspect in the inquiry to other media.

* Mr Trotter says: ‘People have seen a search of Sir Cliff Richard’s apartment unfold on television with details of a serious allegation put into the public domain prior to him being interviewed by the police.

The search and the nature of the allegation... certainly interfered with his privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress.’

He concludes that had the force refused to co-operate, the BBC would probably never have run the story.

Although the BBC reporter, Dan Johnson, was not interviewed, Mr Trotter decided the corporation had not been fully open about how it came to hear about the allegation against Sir Cliff.

The BBC claim – that Mr Johnson had persuaded South Yorkshire Police to agree the deal when all he knew was the name of the celebrity suspect – was ‘not one I believe to be credible’, Mr Trotter said.

Evidence supported the police account that Mr Johnson had detailed knowledge and ‘knew as much’ as police did when he made contact.

The BBC has never revealed the source of the original information.

Sir Cliff has called the allegation that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of 16 in 1985 ‘completely false’. He was interviewed by police under caution and, more than six months on, inquiries are on-going.

Mr Trotter was asked to investigate police handling of the raid by police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

Analysis reveals the BBC journalist contacted the force’s communications director Carrie Goodwin on July 14 after an alleged leak from Operation Yewtree, the inquiry into abuse claims involving Jimmy Savile.

A meeting was held the next day with Mr Johnson and Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who agreed to tell him the date and location of the raid in exchange for him holding the story until that day to protect the investigation. The chief constable was also informed of the agreement.

Mr Trotter said Miss Goodwin should not have arranged the meeting with Mr Fenwick, not have confirmed any information about the inquiry to the BBC reporter and not have agreed to notify him of the search. Mr Fenwick should have refused to meet or disclose any details to the BBC.

And Chief Constable David Crompton ‘could have rescinded the agreement’.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘While we believe our actions in relation to dealing with the media were within policy and were well intended, they were ultimately flawed and we regret the additional anxiety which was caused to Sir Cliff Richard.’

The BBC was not directly involved in Mr Trotter’s review. A spokesman said: ‘The home affairs committee has already endorsed the way the BBC handled this story. We have nothing further to add.’

A spokesman for Sir Cliff said he would not comment.

Original report here

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