South Yorkshire Police has complained to the BBC and accused it of breaching its own editorial guidelines after the broadcaster found out about a search the force was planning to carry out at the home of pop star Sir Cliff Richard.
Officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley Police searched the singer's Berkshire penthouse for five hours on Thursday as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a boy under the age of 16 at a religious event in 1985.
BBC cameras, a reporter and a press helicopter were reportedly at the property when eight police officers arrived to search the home.
Sir Cliff, 73, said the allegation was “completely false” and hit out at the fact BBC journalists were apparently tipped off about the plan, saying: “The police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press”.
The manner in which the police search was conducted was condemned by human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC as "unacceptable".
Writing in The Independent, Robertson said that Sir Cliff’s treatment had been raised a number of questions surrounding civil liberties.
Cliff Richard: Life in pictures
Cliff Richard: Life in pictures
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Richard aged 18 at the Hulton Boys and Girls Exhibition at Olympia's Disc Theatre in August 1959 when he was lead singer of the Drifters
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Pictured in 1962 with members of the Shadows, his backing group. Next to him is Bruce Welch, who played rhythm guitar
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With his backing group, the Shadows, Richard became a massive pop star in the 1960s with a string of hit albums and singles including ‘I love You’ (1960), ‘the Young Ones (1961), Bachelor Boy (1962) and ‘Summer Holiday (1963)
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With his mother, Dorothy, and one of his sisters in 1964
Michael Stroud/Daily Express/Hulton Archive
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Outside the Royal Albert Hall where he represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in October 1967
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Cliff Richard in 1968
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Cliff Richard poses in front of his disc awards in the 1970s
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On stage at the 1981 Royal Variety Performance, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London
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In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2008, Sir Cliff is reported as saying: "Of all the women I've known, there were only two that I've come close to marrying. One was Jackie Irving, a dancer whom I met in Blackpool. She was utterly beautiful and for a while we were inseparable. The other girl I came close to asking was Sue Barker, whom I met in 1982"
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Orchestrating a round of singing as rain delays play during the 1996 Wimbledon tennis championships
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Performing a duet with Flemish singer Helmut Lotti during a rehearsal of Lotti's album and TV broadcast 'Pop Classics' on 6 August 2003 in Brussels
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Performing on stage during the 'Intelligent Finance Cliff Richard Tennis Classic' at Birmingham National Indoor Arena on 18 December 2004
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Arriving with Brian May at the Royal Film Performance and World Premiere of 'The Chronicles Of Narnia' at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 December 2005 in London
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Unveiling a plaque of his handprints in Wembley Arena's Square of Fame on 9 November 2006 in London
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Sir Cliff Richard and The Shadows performs live on stage at the O2 Arena in London on 28 September 2009
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Cliff Richard attends a press conference to announce details of his new album at Gilgamesh on 7 March 2011 in London
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Queen Elizabeth II is introduced to Sir Cliff Richard backstage after the Diamond Jubilee, Buckingham Palace Concert on 4 June 2012, along with Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, and Shirely Bassey
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Sir Cliff Richard at the 2012 US Open. The crooner claimed One Direction still compete with him to 'look cool'
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Performing on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012
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Cliff Richard attends the 'Willkommen bei Carmen Nebel' show at Volkswagen Halle on 23 November 2013 in Braunschweig, Germany
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Richard, 73, is one of the most successful British recording artists
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Sir Cliff, born Harry Webb, has sold an estimated 21.5 million singles in the UK and 250 million worldwide during a career spanning over 50 years
He added that the behaviour of the police breached article eight of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to privacy.
In a statement, South Yorkshire Police reiterated that "at no point" had it leaked information, which has been confirmed publicly by the BBC.
On Friday Jonathan Munro, the BBC's head of news gathering, said there had been lots of questions about the original source of the story, tweeting: "We won't say who, but can confirm it was not South Yorks Police."
The force acknowledged that it did confirm to a reporter at the corporation the date of the search of Sir Cliff's house, but only because a BBC reporter had already contacted the force "some weeks ago" to say it knew about a planned investigation.
The force said it was "disappointing" that the BBC was slow to acknowledge that the force was not the source of the "leak".
South Yorkshire Police said: "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 (was) in a position to publish it.
"The force was reluctant to co-operate 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."
The force added that it would now welcome an investigation into the original leak.
A BBC spokeswoman 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."Reuse content