South Yorkshire Police has been branded ‘inept’ over its handling of a raid on the home of pop legend Sir Cliff Richard.
The Home Affairs Select Committee published a report criticising the force over the way it tipped off the BBC about a planned search of Sir Cliff’s Berkshire home following an allegation that the entertainer sexually abused a teenage boy in Sheffield in the 1980s.
The BBC was outside Sir Cliff’s home when police officers arrived.
A BBC reporter who already knew of the police probe into the sexual assault allegation contacted South Yorkshire Police and agreed to delay publication of the details if granted access to the raid.
In a report over the incident the Home Affairs Select Committee said the police should have refused to cooperate with the BBC and explained why broadcasting the story could have prejudiced the probe.
Chairman Keith Vaz said e-mail exchanges between the force and the BBC could have been mistaken for a ‘script from The Bill’.
“South Yorkshire Police’s handling of this situation was utterly inept,” he added.
“The force allowed itself to hand over sensitive information to a journalist and granted him privileged access to the execution of a search warrant.
“The force should have refused to cooperate.”
Sir Cliff’s lawyers said the BBC coverage had caused the singer ‘immeasurable harm’.
He is now planning to sell his multi-million pound apartment.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “Whilst 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.
“South Yorkshire Police has changed the way it deals with this type of media enquiry. In high profile cases the force no longer provides privileged briefings to reporters, nor does it confirm information which media sources seek to verify.”