Sir Cliff Raid: Police And BBC Deny Wrongdoing

The director general of the BBC has told MPs the broadcaster would "never have run the story" over a planned search of Sir Cliff Richard's home if police had warned it would be "damaging" to the investigation.

Lord Tony Hall told the Home Affairs Select Committee: "If the chief constable came to a news editor, head of news gathering or myself and said to us, 'if you run this story you will hamper this investigation, it will be damaging to this investigation', we would never have run the story."

He added: "It was a proper story for us to cover, in the right matter, proportionately, which I think is what we did. I wasn't surprised the police didn't ask us not to broadcast the story."

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police earlier apologised to pop star Sir Cliff if the force was "insensitive" about the search of his home - and told the MPs the BBC put his force in "a very difficult position"

David Crompton said the broadcaster "made it clear" it would run a story about the investigation without some kind of deal.

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, as far as the investigation was concerned.

"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.

"I'm confident that we made the right decision in difficult and unusual circumstances."

Sir Cliff's Berkshire home in Sunningdale was searched by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley Police on August 14 as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985. He denies the allegation.

The broadcaster was informed of the raid the day before and told not to turn up at the scene before 9.30am, but a crew arrived hours before the search began.

The force has complained to the BBC - which has confirmed the leak about the probe did not come from South Yorkshire Police - about its coverage of the search which Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal at the time, was not told about in advance.

Asked if he regretted his force entering into a deal with the BBC, Mr Crompton replied: "The coverage was disproportionate and made our actions look heavy-handed and intrusive. I do regret that."

Mr Crompton admitted he did not seek to speak to the broadcaster's senior management about the story because "I did not really have that much faith that we could trust it wouldn't be published".

He also said the BBC journalist - Dan Johnson - made it clear "the original information leak had come from Operation Yewtree".

Scotland Yard's assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt has denied the leak came from the Metropolitan Police's investigation into historical sex crime, launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The BBC's head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro told the committee: "Dan Johnson totally denies mentioning Yewtree by name or the Metropolitan Police force or indeed any other clue as to the identity of the source for the original story."

Mr Crompton conceded his force may have been "a little naive" to assume journalists would not arrive at Sir Cliff's home before the operation, to which Mr Vaz replied it showed "a gross lack of competence".