The force has announced that it has written an official letter of complaint to BBC Director-General Lord Tony Hall over the Corporation’s coverage of the case.
Last Thursday, the BBC broadcast exclusive reports that police were searching a property in Berkshire belonging to the star, who also has a winter home in Barbados.
A news helicopter flew overhead and camera crews were at the ready to capture images of officers in unmarked cars arriving at Sir Cliff’s Sunningdale residence.
The raid by the South Yorkshire Police was reportedly part of an investigation into allegations that Richard had sexually abused a young boy in June 1985 during a Billy Graham rally at a stadium in Sheffield.
Subsequently, under pressure to account for the circumstances of its coverage of the raid, the BBC denied that it had been tipped off by the force.
For their part, the police revealed that they had been contacted “weeks ago” by a BBC reporter who had found out about their investigation into claims that Richard had sexually abused a boy almost 30 years ago.
In a statement, police said they had been “reluctant” to co-operate with the BBC in the matter, but believed that if they did not, the Corporation would run the story anyway, potentially jeopardising their investigation.
The police admitted reaching an agreement whereby the BBC would be given exclusive information in advance of the raid, allowing them to show it on TV, “in return for delaying publication” of their story.
Meanwhile, the BBC maintained: “A BBC journalist approached South Yorkshire Police with information about the investigation.
“The BBC agreed to follow normal journalistic practice and not to publish a story that might jeopardise a police inquiry.”
Senior figures nevertheless said the televised police raid broke all the rules on contact between press and police.
Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North-West Leicestershire, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “What the BBC has done amounts to blackmail.
“I think there should be an external inquiry to find out what happened, not an internal BBC one. This is shocking behaviour by a publicly funded national broadcaster.”
Shaun Wright, the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, is reportedly taking the situation “very seriously”. He summoned his office’s chief executive and lawyer yesterday to start drawing up a timeline of what happened.
Meanwhile, Richard, who was vacationing at his villa in Portugal at the time, said in a statement that he had been aware of “completely false” allegations against him online for many months.