Search of Sir Cliff Richard’s home – Report of the Home affairs Select Committee

The Home affairs Select Committee published on 24th October 2014 the Report into the televised raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s home under the title ” Police, the media, and High Profile Investigations”.

The following are the Conclusions and Recommendations of the report with a link to where the full report can be read.

“Conclusions and Recommendations

1.  If South Yorkshire Police believed that the premature broadcasting of a story about the investigation could have prejudiced their enquiries, then they should have contacted more senior people at the BBC to explain the situation, rather than trying to cut a deal with an individual reporter. Given that the BBC had information about the investigation and the timing and location of the execution of the search warrant, which was freely provided to them by South Yorkshire Police, we see nothing wrong in their decision to run the story. It is unfortunate, however, that they allowed another of their correspondents to give a misleading impression of the circumstances under which the Corporation came by this information, downplaying the BBC’s role and suggesting that South Yorkshire Police were actively seeking publicity for the investigation. (Paragraph 7)

2.  Whereas South Yorkshire Police have been very forthcoming in supplying us with all the material we have sought from them, the BBC have chosen to hide their reporter behind his superiors, issuing equivocal denials on his behalf. It seems likely to us, on balance, that Mr Johnson did indeed indicate to South Yorkshire Police that he had detailed knowledge of the investigation, beyond the name of the suspect, and that, whether by act or omission, he gave them the clear impression that his source was Operation Yewtree. (Paragraph 11)

3.  It is clear that South Yorkshire Police’s exchanges with the BBC went far beyond confirming the date of the search of Sir Cliff’s home. The Force played an active part in providing the BBC with detailed information which would allow it to secure exclusive coverage of the search. (Paragraph 12)

4.  This episode clearly points to a leak from within Operation Yewtree and it is therefore surprising that Chief Constable Crompton did not seek to contact the Metropolitan Police soon after the approach from Mr Johnson to alert them to the possible leak and invite them to investigate. (Paragraph 13)

5.  It would have been open to South Yorkshire Police to decide to publicise the name of the subject of this investigation had they chosen to do so for operational reasons. However, the naming of suspects (or the confirming of a name when it is put to a force) when there is no operational need to do so is wrong. (Paragraph 17)

6.  The conversations between Dan Johnson and South Yorkshire Police led eventually to high-profile television coverage of allegations against a well-known public figure. The potential damage to the individuals under investigation means that the police should not give the media advance notice of arrests, the execution of search warrants, and other aspects of investigations of high-profile individuals, except, as we have already noted, where it is justified on operational grounds. South Yorkshire Police have told us that they did not want to publicise their investigation, but offered the BBC information about the search warrant as part of a compromise in which the BBC did not broadcast prematurely the information its reporter had. Senior BBC executives told us that the Chief Constable had only to pick up the phone and they would not have broadcast the story, a sensible editorial policy which should reduce the scope for conflict between legitimate journalistic activity and law enforcement, and which we are happy to endorse and publicise here. We hope that this episode will provide a useful case-study for police forces when considering their dealings with the media. (Paragraph 18)

7.  We are disappointed by South Yorkshire Police’s inept handling of this situation. Whereas it is clear that the Force felt from the outset that it had to cooperate with the BBC in order to avoid jeopardising the investigation, its cooperation went far beyond notifying the BBC of the date, the Force failed to go to senior managers at the BBC to explain the risks inherent in premature broadcasting of the story, and it failed to alert the Metropolitan Police to the possibility of a leak from within Operation Yewtree. (Paragraph 19)

8.  It is clear that Sir Cliff Richard has personally suffered enormous, irreparable damage to his reputation, though he has been neither arrested nor charged with any offence. We have seen recently in the press that Sir Cliff has considered selling his home, which he only bought in 2008, because of the way the operation was carried out, and we can understand his feelings. No citizen should have to watch on live television their home being raided in this way. (Paragraph 20)”

Full Report


Sign up for Newsletter

Please enter your email address