South Yorkshire Police officials have been criticised in a report on the force’s handling of a raid on home of Sir Cliff Richard.
Former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright commissioned the report after the force struck a secret deal with the BBC to allow the media organisation to film officers raiding Sir Cliff’s £3.5 million apartment in Berkshire last August following an allegation that the pop star sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Sheffield in 1985.
The report, by former Chief Constable Andy Trotter, concluded that South Yorkshire Police should never have struck the deal, claiming it breached Sir Cliff’s privacy and caused him ‘unnecessary distress’.
The legendary pop star was at his holiday home in Portugal at the time and watched footage of the raid on TV.
Sir Cliff, who denies any wrongdoing, has never been arrested over the allegation.
Mr Trotter’s report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, slams senior officials at South Yorkshire Police for cooperating with the BBC when a reporter, armed with a tip-off about the probe into Sir Cliff, had the story ‘stood up’ by the force.
The force’s Head of Communications, Carrie Goodwin, set up a meeting with Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who is overseeing the police investigation into Sir Cliff, and an agreement was reached to tell the reporter the date and location of the raid in exchange for the BBC not publishing anything in advance.
Chief Constable David Crompton was informed of the agreement.
Mr Trotter said confirmation of Sir Cliff’s identity should never have been given, the meeting between the reporter and detective, in which the deal was brokered, should not have been set up and details of the raid should not have been disclosed.
Without official confirmation of the police investigation it is unlikely the BBC would have released details.
Mr Trotter said: “There are many lessons to be learned from this event.
“The force can argue that the search was carried out successfully and there was no interference to the investigation and that the threat of prior publication was avoided. That is true but at considerable cost to the reputation of the force which could have been avoided by the individuals concerned.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police accepts the findings of the independent review commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“We will implement all five recommendations in order to improve our dealings with the media.”
South Yorkshire’s current Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said: “I have read the report from Mr Andy Trotter commissioned by my predecessor in August 2014.
“I have had discussions with the Chief Constable and he advises me that all recommendations relating to South Yorkshire Police will be implemented.”