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Sir Cliff refuses to take sides in house raid row

By Staff Reporter

Pop star Cliff Richard will not become "embroiled" in a row between police and the BBC over coverage of the search of his home, his lawyers have said.

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton earlier apologised to the performer if the force was "insensitive" about the search.

Mr Crompton told the Home Affairs Select Committee his inquiry had been "compromised" by a leak from someone within sex crime inquiry Operation Yewtree, leading his force to make a "sweetheart deal" with the BBC. But the BBC said their reporter knew nothing more than Richard's name before a police briefing.

In a letter to the committee, Sir Cliff's solicitor Gideon Benaim said: "While there is an investigation, we would not wish our client to become embroiled in wider issues."

Sir Cliff was questioned under caution by police as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a boy at a religious event in 1985, but not arrested or charged.

Mr Crompton, who was accused of incompetence over the handling of the operation, told the committee his force was backed in to a corner.

He said: "We were placed in a very difficult position because of the original leak, and the BBC came to us knowing everything that we knew."

Branding the broadcaster's coverage of the raid "disproportionate", he also said it had been made to look "heavy-handed".

South Yorkshire Police has complained to the BBC about its coverage, claiming that an analysis piece on its website was an attempt to distance itself from what happened.

The BBC has confirmed the leak did not come from South Yorkshire Police, but in line with journalistic practice will not reveal the source.

But Mr Crompton told the committee BBC staff had "made it clear" the the leak came from Operation Yewtree.

However the reporter concerned has flatly denied revealing the source.

BBC director general Lord Hall later told the committee that if senior editorial staff had been approached by the police warning of damage to the investigation, they would not have run the story.

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