15:36, April 16 136 0 theguardian.com

2018-04-16 15:36:28
Ex-detective felt forced by BBC reporter to reveal Cliff Richard raid, court hears

A former police detective has told the court hearing into Sir Cliff Richard’s damages case against the BBC that he felt forced to reveal the raid on the singer’s home to a journalist from the corporation.

Matthew Fenwick, who was a detective superintendent with South Yorkshire police, said he believed reporter Dan Johnson would run a story about the investigation into the singer, leaving it “compromised”, unless he was told about the search.

Fenwick said it had been clear Johnson knew the force was investigating an allegation of child sexual abuse against Richard, because he described the singer as a “celebrity paedo” during a meeting.

Discussing a meeting in July 2014, Fenwick said: “I believed the BBC was in a position to publish a story and I didn’t want them to publish a story at that stage.

“[Johnson] said he could and he would, and we came to an arrangement that he would not publish it then but that we would let him know when we were going to take further action.

“I felt that we didn’t have many options – there was no option, other than to cooperate with him.”

Richard told the high court last week that he would feel “for ever tainted” after BBC coverage of a police raid on his home in 2014 identified him in relation to a historical allegation. The singer, 77, said that although South Yorkshire police did not name him, the BBC did in reports featuring footage taken from a helicopter hovering over his Berkshire apartment.

Richard, who has always denied any wrongdoing and was never arrested or charged in connection with the allegation, was at his home in Portugal when he learned of the raid; he watched it “horrified” on television.

The singer is suing the BBC for “substantial damages” over its coverage, claiming the report was a “very serious invasion” of his privacy and has had a “prolonged impact” on him.

BBC bosses dispute his claims. The corporation’s lawyers previously told the court the raid was a “matter of legitimate public interest” and its coverage was accurate and in good faith. A spokesman said Richard’s full denials had been reported at every stage.

In a witness statement on Monday, Fenwick said that when he left the meeting with Johnson he was under no illusion that the reporter’s information had come from a police source, but he feared it could “compromise the investigation”.

The former detective said he and the force’s head of corporate communications, Carrie Goodwin, told Johnson they were considering a search of Richard’s home in August 2014, but they declined his request to attend the raid with police.

Fenwick added: “It did not seem as though it would be possible to stop Dan Johnson from reporting the story altogether, but I was very concerned that if he reported it now, as he said he was ready to, then the investigation would be prejudiced. In particular, publishing a story could cause problems with a search warrant which we were not ready to do yet.

“At the back of my mind I was thinking that it would not only compromise the investigation but could also compromise Sir Cliff Richard by exposing him to allegations, potentially giving him the opportunity to dispose of evidence. If reported, the story was likely to be very high profile and the attention could have a negative impact on the victim.”

Fenwick said he also declined Johnson’s request to speak to the man who made the allegation against Richard, and refused to take part in a pre-recorded interview ahead of the raid.

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