South Yorkshire Police complain to BBC over broadcaster’s handling of Sir Cliff Richard investigation ‘leak’

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South Yorkshire Police have complained to the BBC about the broadcaster’s reporting of the Sir Cliff Richard sex offence investigation.

The force has written to the director general of the BBC Tony Hall to say it believes the broadcaster has ‘contravened its editorial guidelines’.

But the BBC said it followed ‘normal journalistic practice’ in its reporting of the story.

It comes after the force came under fire when the search of Sir Cliff’s house in Berkshire in connection with an allegation of a sexual nature involving a boy under 16 was made public.

The inquiry concerns an alleged assault claimed to have taken place at an appearance by American evangelist Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985.

Sir Cliff has denied the charges as ‘completely false’ and said he was angry had not been given notice of the house search, but the press had.

The BBC had reporters at the scene as the house search took place.

In a statement released tonight, a South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “At no point in this investigation has South Yorkshire Police leaked information. This has been confirmed publicly by the BBC.

“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 cooperate 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 broadcasters 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.”

A BBC spokesman said: “A BBC journalist approached South Yorkshire Police with information about the investigation. The BBC agreed to follow normal journalistic practice and not to publish a story that might jeopardise a police inquiry.”