'I was hung out like live bait': Cliff Richard hits out at 'fumbling' police and BBC after being cleared of sex assault allegations
Cliff Richard has been cleared of sex assault allegations after the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would bring no charges following a two-year police inquiry.
The 75-year-old singer will face no further action following the controversial South Yorkshire Police investigation into allegations of historical sexual abuse.
Prosecutors announced on Thursday morning that there was "insufficient evidence to prosecute" the veteran entertainer after the police investigation that cost an estimated £800,000.
Cliff said he is "obviously thrilled that the vile accusations" have been brought to a close" as he used his statement to say he had been "hung out like live bait" and called for those who are facing allegations to "never be named publicly until charged".
South Yorkshire Police apologised "wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused" to Sir Cliff by the force's "initial handling of the media interest" in its investigation into the singer, when the BBC was tipped off about a raid on his home and broadcast it live.
Cliff’s Berkshire home was raided by South Yorkshire Police in August 2014 after they received a tip from Operation Yewtree, detailing an allegation that dated back more than quarter of a century.
Officers travelled from South Yorkshire in a convoy of unmarked vehicles and entered the private estate shortly after 1pm.
But within minutes of their arrival news of the raid was being broadcast on the BBC which had stationed a producer outside the Sunningdale property the previous evening.
The broadcaster even used a news helicopter overhead to film detectives as they removed items from the star’s apartment.
It was later revealed that the force had cut a deal with the BBC in order to allow the filming of the raid.
An independent investigation subsequently criticised the arrangement for interfering with Sir Cliff’s privacy and causing unnecessary distress.
The Home Affairs Select Committee later described the police raid as “utterly inept”.
Sir Cliff Richard statement
In a statement, Sir Cliff said: "After almost two years under police investigation I learnt today that they have finally closed their enquiries.
"I have always maintained my innocence, co-operated fully with the investigation, and cannot understand why it has taken so long to get to this point!
"Nevertheless, I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close.
"Ever since the highly-publicised and BBC-filmed raid on my home I have chosen not to speak publicly.
"Even though I was under pressure to 'speak out', other than to state my innocence, which was easy for me to do as I have never molested anyone in my life, I chose to remain silent.
"This was despite the widely-shared sense of injustice resulting from the high-profile fumbling of my case from day one. Other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged."
He continued: "I was named before I was even interviewed and for me that was like being hung out like 'live bait'.
"It is obvious that such strategies simply increase the risk of attracting spurious claims which not only tie up police resources and waste public funds, but they forever tarnish the reputations of innocent people.
"There have been numerous occasions in recent years where this has occurred, and I feel very strongly that no innocent person should be treated in this way.
"I know the truth and in some people's eyes the CPS' announcement today doesn't go far enough because it doesn't expressly state that I am innocent; which of course I am. There lies the problem.
"My reputation will not be fully vindicated because the CPS' policy is to only say something general about there being 'insufficient' evidence.
"How can there be evidence for something that never took place! This is also a reason why people should never be named publicly until they have been charged unless there are exceptional circumstances.
"To my fans and members of the public, to the press and media, all of whom continued to show me such encouraging and wonderful support, I would like to say "thank you" it would have been so much harder without you."