UK

BBC And Police To Face Grilling From MPs Over Cliff Richard Raid

22/08/2014 18:02 BST | Updated 22/08/2014 18:59 BST

BBC bosses and South Yorkshire Police officials have been summoned to appear before MPs in connection with a recent raid on Sir Cliff Richard's home.

The broadcaster has been accused of a "cover up" over its role in the police raid on the singer's flat following sexual assault allegations.

South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton claimed the corporation appeared to "distance itself from what had happened" after it broadcast the raid on the pop star's penthouse.

Keith Vaz, home affairs committee chairman, said the claims were a "matter of deep concern" and has summoned the chief constable and BBC director general Tony Hall to appear before the committee on September 2.

cliff richard

Sir Cliff Richard has dismissed allegations of an historic sexual assault as 'completely false'

The BBC broke the news of the search but has been heavily criticised for its handling of the story - with a film crew reportedly arriving on the scene before the police.

The broadcaster has since received hundreds of complaints related to its reporting of the incident.

But BBC director general Hall has said BBC journalists "acted appropriately" in their coverage of the police raid.

South Yorkshire police force has admitted to sharing information to the media about the raid on the singer's home.

Mr Crompton said the BBC's misleading and inaccurate portrayal of its involvement in what happened led to the force making a formal complaint.

After the raid, South Yorkshire Police issued this statement: "When a media outlet contacted SYP with information about an investigation, we took the decision to work with them in order to protect the integrity of that investigation.

"Since the search took place a number of people have contacted the police to provide information and we must acknowledge that the media played a part in that, for which we are grateful."

cliff richard house berkshire

Sir Cliff owns a penthouse flat in this luxury Berkshire estate

The singer's apartment was searched by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police last week as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985.

Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal when the search took place, has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Crompton said the force was approached by a BBC journalist with detailed information about its investigation.

It "reluctantly agreed" to give the reporter notice of the day officers planned to search the property to dissuade the corporation from publishing details in advance and protect the "integrity of the investigation".

"It was not done in order to maximise publicity, contrary to some press reports," he wrote in a letter to Mr Vaz.

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Sir Cliff Richard's Property Searched By Police

Mr Crompton said an article appeared on the BBC website on the afternoon of the raid that suggested there had been a deliberate attempt to "ensure maximum coverage" by the force.

"The force contacted the BBC but the corporation refused to withdraw or adapt the article," he said in the letter.

"This appeared to be an attempt by the BBC to distance itself from what had taken place and cover up the fact that it had initiated contact with the force about the story.

"This was misleading and was known by the BBC to be inaccurate."

Lord Hall has insisted that BBC journalists "acted appropriately" in its coverage of the story.

MPs on the committee will grill both men separately in an afternoon session in the first week back after the summer recess.

Mr Vaz said: "These are serious matters which deal with the sensitive issue of how the police conduct their investigations.

"The balance between mass and individual public interest must be struck appropriately and the relationships between the police and the media must always be ethical.

"I am grateful for the information provided, however, it raises even more questions. In his letter the chief constable accuses the BBC of a 'cover up' which is a matter of deep concern."

Sir Cliff's fans have rallied round the veteran star since the allegation became public and are showing their support by buying copies of his 1992 Number Seven hit I Still Believe in You with the song headed for this weekend's Top 40.

Sue Dungworth, who is part of the Cliff Richard Fan Club of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, has told MailOnline why she’s supporting the campaign to get Sir Cliff back into the charts.

“Some people might find it a bit of a trite campaign but it shows solidarity,” Sue explains. “This represents the swell of support for Cliff.

“I know he's not the only pop star with fans, but his fans seem to be particularly loyal. Like me, many of them have been with him since fairly early on.

“If there turns out to be anything in (the allegations) I will be extremely surprised and massively disappointed.”

cliff richard

Sir Cliff is one of the most successful British musicians of all time

Lord Hall said the police investigation into the pop star was "clearly a significant story".

In a letter to Mr Vaz, released yesterday, he said: "I believe that BBC journalists have acted appropriately in pursuing this story. As you rightly say, the media has a right to report on matters of public interest.

"Sir Cliff Richard is one of the most successful British entertainers of all time and has been a prominent public figure for several decades. Investigations into historic sex abuse cases have - and will continue to have - a profound impact on the lives of well-known individuals and the standing of public institutions.

"The disclosure of a sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard and the police search of his property was clearly a significant story and the BBC was not alone in providing extensive coverage."

Sir Cliff Richard's Property Searched By Police

Sir Cliff Richard's Property Searched By Police