Thursday 12 December 2019

BBC apologises to Sir Cliff Richard but defends reporting of police raid

Sir Cliff revealed the toll the inquiry took on his health
Sir Cliff revealed the toll the inquiry took on his health

The BBC has apologised for the distress caused to Sir Cliff Richard after he was publicly named as a suspect in a sex abuse investigation.

The veteran entertainer said he thought he was "going to die" as a result of the stress brought on by the probe into historical allegations. The case against him was dropped this month by the Crown Prosecution Service.

He told The Daily Mail newspaper the BBC "owed" him an apology after they broadcast the live raid by South Yorkshire Police on his Berkshire home following an apparent tip-off.

In a statement, the corporation said it "applied normal editorial judgments" to covering the story, but added: "The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress.

"The BBC's responsibility is to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest, which is why they have been reported by all news organisations in this country.

"Once the South Yorkshire Police had confirmed the investigation and Sir Cliff Richard's identity and informed the BBC of the timing and details of the search of his property, it would neither have been editorially responsible nor in the public interest to choose not to report fully the investigation into Sir Cliff Richard because of his public profile.

"The BBC, at every stage, reported Sir Cliff's full denial of the allegations.

"The BBC, therefore, stands by the decision to report the investigation undertaken by the South Yorkshire Police and the search of his property."

The singer, 75, told the Mail he was left physically and emotionally exhausted by the investigation, and is undergoing medical tests to establish if he has suffered any long-lasting ill effects from the strain.

Describing one episode the day after the police search - referred to by him as "the break-in" - the famously keen tennis player told how he was taken ill on the court.

He said: "I went ahead, but I could hardly lift my arm up. I was told: 'Just take it gently', but I couldn't do that either.

"I couldn't understand what was happening to me. I thought I was going to die."

The singer was at his farm and vineyard in Portugal in August 2014 when he received a call saying police officers had a warrant to search his Berkshire apartment.

However, he was unaware of what he had been accused of until coverage of the raid appeared on BBC News.

He told the newspaper: "That was my introduction to what they were doing and how it looked on the screen. It was really terrifying, really horrible, and of course that's when I discovered what I was supposedly accused of."

South Yorkshire Police have since apologised over their handling of the investigation, during which Sir Cliff said he felt like he was being used as "live bait" for accusers with spurious claims.

PA Media

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