Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sir Cliff urges police procedures review after naming over sex abuse allegations

South Yorkshire Police searched Sir Cliff Richard's apartment at the Charters Estate in Sunningdale
South Yorkshire Police searched Sir Cliff Richard's apartment at the Charters Estate in Sunningdale

Sir Cliff Richard joined calls for a "complete review of police procedures", condemning the fact that he was named in public over sexual abuse allegations before being charged.

The singer's Berkshire home was raided by South Yorkshire Police detectives in August 2014, an operation that was broadcast live on the BBC following an apparent tip-off that the search was taking place.

Sir Cliff was identified without ever being arrested or charged, which he said was like being hung out like "live bait" and tarnished the reputation of the innocent.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings said the operation being made public was a "deep regret" and accepted that a "bigger debate" was needed over how to properly protect those being investigated.

Calling for change, Sir Cliff said: "Other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged.

"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."

The 75-year-old pop star is among a number of high-profile individuals who were named in connection with historical sex offences and then never charged, a practice that has been widely criticised.

Comedians Jim Davidson and Jimmy Tarbuck were both accused of sexual offences before police dropped investigations.

Radio presenter Paul Gambaccini was kept on police bail for 12 months after being arrested on suspicion of historical sex abuse in 2013, before being told he would not be charged.

Gambaccini described the Operation Yewtree investigation against him a "witch-hunt" that ate away at the idea of "innocent until proven guilty".

He has also called for law reform including anonymity for those accused of sex abuse before they have been charged, and backed a 28-day limit on police bail recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee - which came into force last year.

Following the announcement of no further action being taken against Sir Cliff, David Davis MP - who has championed reform of how sexual offences are prosecuted - backed the call for a review of police procedures.

He said: "In light of another high-profile arrest which resulted in no prosecution, it is time for a complete review of police procedures surrounding high-profile sex abuse cases, and the publicity surrounding these cases.

"Whilst it is important to protect victims and maximise the chances of a successful prosecution, this must not result in the gratuitous destruction of people's reputation."

Dr Billings said the investigation into Sir Cliff should not have "been played out in the public domain".

He said: "It is a matter of deep regret that these reports were made so public when there was never any arrest. I am pleased that that the CPS reached their decision speedily.

"There is clearly a bigger debate to be had about how these issues are dealt with in ways that allow victims to be heard but afford those investigated proper protection."

Press Association

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