South Yorkshire Police has been accused of ‘a gross lack of competence’ over the way the force dealt with publicity around a raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s home.
The accusation came as Chief Constable David Crompton faced questions from MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee over the way his force handled media coverage surrounding the search of the legendary pop star’s Berkshire home as part of a probe into an allegation of a sex attack in Sheffield in 1985.
Police chiefs lodged a complaint against the BBC in the wake of the raid after a website article claimed South Yorkshire Police worked with the corporation in a ‘deliberate attempt to ensure maximum coverage’ of the search.
MPs spoke of their ‘alarm’ that police forces would feel forced to reveal details of sensitive operations to journalists for fear of articles being published which could damage investigations.
Mr Crompton admitted his force had been ‘a little naive’ in believing that reporters would not arrive at Sir Cliff’s home before his officers.
He said his force was approached by a reporter who already knew of the police probe into the allegation involving Sir Cliff, but his force struck a deal not to publish details until after the raid by providing exact timings of when officers planned to strike at the star’s penthouse.
“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,” said Mr Crompton.
“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.”
MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said there had been a ‘gross lack of competence’ displayed by the police force.”
“We have been amazed at the sheer incompetence at the way this matter was dealt with.”