Tuesday 20 March 2018

Cliff may sue police, BBC after false allegations of sex abuse

Cliff Richard: wants complete review of police procedures. Photo: PA
Cliff Richard: wants complete review of police procedures. Photo: PA

Martin Evans and Gordon Rayner

Cliff Richard angrily complained yesterday that he had been "hung out like live bait" after being cleared of sex assault allegations at the end of a two-year police inquiry.

The 75-year-old singer will face no further action after the UK's Crown Prosecution Service concluded that there was "insufficient evidence" to charge him over historic allegations made by four people.

The CPS took just four weeks to dismiss the police's case.

Richard has spent almost all of his time abroad since a raid on his Berkshire home was broadcast live by the BBC, which had been tipped off by South Yorkshire Police.

Sources close to the musician said he would meet his solicitors to decide whether he might sue the police, the BBC or his accusers.

Richard, who was never arrested, said in a statement that he was "obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close" but that he could not understand why it had taken so long to work out that they were baseless.

He said his case showed that "other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged".

South Yorkshire Police had spent £800,000 (€1.1m) pursuing him in an investigation that MPs described as "inept".

The force yesterday apologised "wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused" to the singer by its "initial handling of the media interest".

The force had cut a deal with the BBC just 13 days into the investigation.

It tipped off the broadcaster in advance of the raid after a BBC correspondent, Dan Johnson, told officers he knew they were investigating Richard and that he intended to broadcast details from an unnamed source.

Fearing that the singer would destroy evidence if he knew he was under investigation, David Crompton, then chief constable of the South Yorkshire force, agreed to the deal - even though a subsequent inquiry found that Mr Johnson was almost certainly bluffing about the strength of his material and the likelihood of it being broadcast.

As a result, when police raided Richard's £3m apartment in Sunningdale on August 14, 2014, the BBC were outside and broadcast the raid live.

Richard said: "I was named before I was even interviewed and for me that was like being hung out like live bait."

He said the strategy of carrying out a high-profile raid to encourage other potential victims to come forward "simply increase[s] the risk of attracting spurious claims".

He added: "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."


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