Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sir Cliff Richard's privacy 'breached by raid details release'

Sir Cliff Richard Image copyright PA
Image caption Police raided Sir Cliff Richard's home in Berkshire, last August

Police should not have released "highly confidential" details to the BBC about a planned search of Sir Cliff Richard's home, an independent report concluded.

South Yorkshire Police "interfered with the star's privacy" by telling the broadcaster about the raid in Berkshire last August, the report said.

A deal over the details was made when a BBC reporter told the force he knew they were investigating the star.

The BBC said a parliamentary committee had endorsed its handling of the story.

Following the raid, Sir Cliff was interviewed by detectives investigating a claim of a sex crime involving a young boy, but was not arrested or charged.

'Cost to reputation'

In his report, former chief constable of British Transport Police Andy Trotter said: "The search at Sir Cliff Richard's apartment, and the nature of the allegation, generated considerable publicity across the world, certainly interfered with his privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress."

"Whatever the motivation and good intentions of those involved from SYP, the outcome has been bad publicity for the force, the chief constable being summoned to HASC (Home Affairs Select Committee), criticism from the media and politicians, complaints from the public, abuse on social media and a public spat with the BBC.

"More importantly, people have seen a search on 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 force can argue that the search was carried out successfully and there was no interference to the investigation 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."

Mr Trotter's report was ordered by the now former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright, after detectives searched the 74-year-old star's apartment, on 14 August, while film crews from the corporation, including one in a helicopter, caught the event on camera.

Image caption South Yorkshire Police gave details of the timing of their raid at Sir Cliff Richard's home to the BBC

It was released by the PCC's office following a Freedom of Information request.

The report concluded the South Yorkshire force should not have confirmed "highly sensitive and confidential" details to the BBC or facilitated a meeting between a senior detective and a corporation reporter.

In October, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee branded the force as being "inept" over its handling of the event and said the force should have refused to co-operate with the BBC.

'Immeasurable harm'

The committee also criticised the BBC for its decision not to allow the reporter who broke the story, to appear before them.

A statement from Sir Cliff's lawyers at the time said the coverage caused "immeasurable harm" to the star.

A BBC spokesman said: "The Home Affairs Committee has already endorsed the way the BBC handled this story."

The new South Yorkshire PCC, Dr Alan Billings, said: "I have read the report from Mr Andy Trotter, commissioned by my predecessor in August 2014.

"Mr Trotter outlines six recommendations in his report. I have had discussions with the chief constable and he advises me that all recommendations relating to South Yorkshire Police will be implemented."

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