South Yorkshire Police says the BBC has “contravened its editorial guidelines” when it reported that officers were searching the home of Sir Cliff Richard.
The force has written a letter of complaint to the director general of the BBC.
On Thursday, police arrived at the 73-year-old’s mansion in Berkshire, to investigate an allegation of a historical sex offence – an allegation which Sir Cliff Richard stated was “completely false.”
“The warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s, involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time,” wrote South Yorkshire Police in a statement.
“At no point in this investigation has South Yorkshire Police leaked information. This has been confirmed publicly by the BBC.
“The facts are as follows:
“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 in a position to publish it.
“The force was reluctant to cooperate 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.
“South Yorkshire Police considers it disappointing that the BBC was slow to acknowledge that the force was not the source of the leak.
“A letter of complaint has been sent to the Director General of the BBC making it clear that the broadcasters appears to have contravened it’s editorial guidelines.
“South Yorkshire Police would welcome an investigation into the original leak.
“Finally we want to stress that this is an ongoing and complex investigation and we are in the process of gathering evidence. This is likely to take some time and we would caution against any reporting which may be prejudicial. This is in the interests of all parties.”
The BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro confirmed, via Twitter, that the source for the story “was not South Yorks Police.” The corporation also said that “normal journalistic practices” were followed.