A retired police officer who gave a BBC reporter information about a raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s house has told a court that he felt “forced” to tell him about the search.
Ex-South Yorkshire detective superintendent Matthew Fenwick said he felt obliged do a deal with reporter Dan Johnson in order to stop him publishing details of the investigation ahead of the raid, potentially “compromising the investigation”.
It is the third day of the hearing in which the 77-year-old singer is seeking damages against the BBC in London’s High Court over coverage of a police search on his penthouse apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
The search was part of an investigation into a historical child sex abuse allegation.
Mr Fenwick said Mr Johnson had “clearly stated” he had information from Operation Yewtree – the Met Police investigation into sexual abuse allegations launched in 2012 – and would publish it immediately unless he worked with him.
With that in mind, Mr Fenwick said he came to an arrangement to notify the reporter when the force “was ready to take further action” in order to avoid the investigation being prejudiced by the publication of a story ahead of the raid.
Mr Fenwick said he also feared premature disclosure of the raid may give Sir Cliff the opportunity to dispose of any evidence, as well as having a negative impact on the victim.
Reporter Mr Johnson rubbished claims that appeared in the media that the police brought in the BBC to maximise coverage of their search, calling them “ridiculous”.
He was unable to explain why the raid warrant made provision for “civilian media” personnel to accompany the search and enter the property.
Sir Cliff broke down in tears last week as he gave evidence over the “shocking and upsetting” BBC coverage which he said would “forever taint” him.
The singer also said he was so upset by the coverage he thought he was “going to have a heart attack or a stroke”.
The BBC claim they accurately reported the raid in good faith, and said it was “a matter of legitimate public interest”.
Sir Cliff denied all allegations against him and in June 2016 prosecutors announced the singer would face no charges.
The High Court hearing is due to last 10 days.