Cliff Richard sex allegations: BBC defends coverage of raid on singer's home 'We should start from the principle, why wouldn't we?'

Fran Unsworth, the Deputy Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, spoke to an audience at the Royal Television Society on Tuesday

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The Independent Online

The BBC has responded to criticism of its coverage of the raid that took place at the home of Sir Cliff Richard as police investigated an historic sex allegation made against the singer.

Fran Unsworth, the Deputy Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC, told those gathered at the Royal Television Society on Tuesday (9 September) that “BBC News breaks stories every day. This one was obviously more prominent, because of the nature.”

To the session’s chair, renowned journalist Stewart Purvis, she questioned: "If a reporter came to you and said, 'I've got this story that South Yorkshire Police are investigating an historic sex allegation against Cliff Richard, and what's more they've told me they're going to search his house tomorrow, they've even sent me an aerial photograph of the house,' do you think it's up to me to say, 'Oh I don't think we'll tell the viewer about that, that's not the kind of story the BBC does'?"

"We should start from the principle, why wouldn't the BBC report something, not whether this is a BBC story or not," she added.

Her comments come as Sir Cliff’s long-time friend Gloria Hunniford spoke of his anguish over the allegation – which he has vehemently and publicly denied.

 

Speaking on Loose Women, she said: "He’s totally devastated because he’s got no idea of course who his accuser is and these are his words... He is appalled about what he regards as a completely false accusation.

"He couldn’t believe that this would actually put him through such agony."

Police in South Yorkshire descended upon Sir Cliff’s home in Berkshire to look into claims that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of 16 at a religious event in 1985.

"For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulated online," Sir Cliff said in a statement at the time of the raid.

"The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.

"However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear, to the press.

"I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me.

"Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded."

He was not been arrested or charged, but was interviewed by police under caution.

Last week, the BBC announced a proposal to release confidential communications between its journalists and South Yorkshire Police after being angered at comments by the Chief Constable regarding its coverage of the raid.

James Harding, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, wrote to David Crompton, head of the embattled police force which is also under fire over its handling of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, asking whether he will authorise him to release emails, text messages and the contents of “off-the-record conversations” between the two organisations.