Police chief knew there would be ‘repercussions’ after BBC coverage of raid
David Crompton told the High Court he thought the BBC’s use of a helicopter to film above Sir Cliff Richard’s home was ‘disproportionate’.
The former chief constable of South Yorkshire Police said he knew immediately there would be “repercussions” after he saw BBC coverage of the force’s search at Sir Cliff Richard’s home.
David Crompton told Mr Justice Mann he saw the broadcast while on the beach during a family holiday in Wales, and was “not expecting” to see footage filmed from a helicopter.
Giving evidence at the High Court on Thursday, he said: “Having looked at the footage, I immediately formed the view there would be repercussions.
“I was expecting to see officers going in from the street, I wasn’t expecting to see a helicopter, and I felt that would change the perspective of people viewing this and attract criticism – and we would be part of that.”
Sir Cliff is claiming “substantial” damages for what he says was a “very serious invasion” of his privacy when the raid on his home was broadcast in 2014.
The coverage included footage taken from a helicopter flown above the 77-year-old entertainer’s home on a private estate in Sunningdale, Berkshire.
The BBC contends there was a “legitimate public interest” in its coverage and is vigorously defending the case.
Mr Crompton told the court he thought the BBC’s use of a helicopter to film above Sir Cliff’s property was “disproportionate”.
He accepted he had not raised any concerns about it being used before the search, but said this was because he didn’t think it was a possibility.
He said: “I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that the BBC would do what they did.
“I have never seen coverage like this ever in my police career.”
He said the allegation against Sir Cliff was “weak” and that he believed from the outset the police investigation was “unlikely” to lead to a charge or prosecution.
He also said he had made a mistake and got the wrong broadcaster when he texted a colleague from the beach to say the story “should be on Sky by 1pm” on the day of the search.
Gavin Millar QC, for the BBC, put it to Mr Crompton that South Yorkshire Police wanted publicity of its investigation into a high-profile figure accused of a sexual offence against a child.
The barrister said the force had been heavily criticised over its failings in relation to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and the coverage would show officers “fearlessly investigating”.
But Mr Crompton denied that the force wanted any publicity, adding: “I fundamentally disagree.”
Sir Cliff was accused of molesting a teenager at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane during a rally led by the evangelical preacher Billy Graham in the 1980s.
But no charges were brought against the singer after an investigation lasting almost two years.
South Yorkshire Police have already paid £400,000 in damages to the singer, but the force is asking Mr Justice Mann to rule that the BBC should contribute towards this.
The force contends the BBC bears greater responsibility for the harm caused to Sir Cliff.
The hearing has now been adjourned until May 8, when lawyers will return to court to make their closing submissions in the case.