‘The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has told MPs the BBC put his force in “a very difficult position” over a planned search of Sir Cliff Richard’s home.
David Crompton told the Home Affairs Select Committee the broadcaster “made it clear to my staff that they were in a position to publish” and would run a story about the investigation without some kind of deal.
He said: “We were placed in a very difficult position because of the original leak and the BBC came to us knowing everything that we knew, as far as the investigation was concerned.
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“My concern was that if we showed the BBC the door, the very clear impression which had been left with my staff in the media department was that they were likely to publish the story. That would have impeded our investigation.
“I’m confident that we made the right decision in difficult and unusual circumstances.”
Committee chairman Keith Vaz put it to Mr Crompton that the broadcaster had blackmailed him, to which the police chief replied: “Blackmail is a very strong word. The BBC made it clear to my staff that they were in a position to publish. It put us in a very difficult position.”
Sir Cliff’s Berkshire home in Sunningdale was searched by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley Police on August 14 as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985.
The force has complained to the BBC – which has confirmed the leak about the probe did not come from South Yorkshire Police – about its coverage of the search, which Sir Cliff, who was in Portigal at the time, was not notified about in advance.
Asked if he regretted his force’s actions of entering into a deal with the BBC, Mr Crompton replied: “The coverage was disproportionate and made our actions look heavy-handed and intrusive. I do regret that.”
Mr Crompton reiterated to the committee that the BBC journalist – Dan Johnson – made it clear “the original information leak had come from Operation Yewtree”.
Operation Yewtree – Scotland Yard’s investigation into historical sex crimes – was launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal’
Report by Sky News