Sir Cliff Richard calls for anonymity for sex crime suspects after South Yorkshire Police raid

Singer Sir Cliff Richard has launched a petition to change the law so that those accused of sexual offences are anonymous until charged following his high profile court battle with South Yorkshire Police and the BBC.

Monday, 1st July 2019, 2:04 pm
Updated Monday, 1st July 2019, 6:00 pm
Sir Cliff Richard speaks at an event in Westminster, London, to launch a campaign for a ban on naming sexual crime suspects unless they are charged. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Sir Cliff Richard speaks at an event in Westminster, London, to launch a campaign for a ban on naming sexual crime suspects unless they are charged. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

The veteran performer has joined forces with DJ Paul Gambaccini with both calling for a "re-balancing of the legal system" which would allow those accused of offences to retain their anonymity until charged.

Both were falsely accused of historical sex offences and have backed pressure group Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (Fair).

The petition had already attracted more than 5,000 signatures by the time it was officially launched in Westminster earlier today.

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Sir Cliff Richard backs campaign for anonymity for sex crime suspects after Sout...

If support for the petition tops 10,000 signatures, it will get a Government response, while 100,000 signatures will mean it is considered for debate in Parliament.

Speaking to reporters at the launch event in Victoria Tower Gardens, Sir Cliff said: "We have both been through the mill.

"When you know you didn't do it, you feel you're in a hole you can't get you of."

He said he didn't sleep properly for four years, came out in shingles all over his face and head, and felt like he had been "hung out to dry".

He said "no smoke without fire" was a "stupid saying", adding: "People can be evil enough to tell a lie about an innocent person."

The petition declares anonymity is needed "to protect the reputations of all innocent suspects, whether well-known or not, from the lasting stigma of a false sexual allegation".

Fair was founded by Daniel Janner QC, who also launched the petition. His father, the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, faced allegations of child sex abuse.

The family of the former Labour peer have always maintained his innocence.

Sir Cliff, 78, won his privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, following a child sex assault allegation.

Sir Cliff denied the allegation.

He was never arrested, and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges. Sir Cliff said there were hundreds if not thousands of people who had been affected in the same way and had heard "heartbreaking stories" from people who had spent time in prison after being wrongly accused.

Mr Gambaccini was arrested in October 2013 over a claim that he sexually assaulted two teenage boys as part of Operation Yewtree, set up in the wake of the revelations about paedophile Jimmy Savile.

The 70-year-old, a regular fixture on the airwaves for decades, spent a year on bail before the case was dropped.

Gambaccini said he used to love the UK until he was "betrayed" by law enforcement agencies over "preposterous" allegations.

He said his family "did not deserve to be hit over the head with a sledge hammer" when they were drawn into the matter when contacted by the press over the allegations.

He added: "People who have been going through the system continue to send us emails and letters.

"Please help us and please help me.

"Help me to love this country as much as I once did."

Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor had his home raided and was publicly named, and is also a supporter of the pressure group.

He was investigated as part of Scotland Yard's doomed sex abuse probe, Operation Midland, which centred on claims that boys were sexually abused by a number of public figures more than 30 years ago.

The investigation was abandoned amid widespread criticism, with the 72-year-old spending more than a year facing accusations that he was a child murderer and rapist, before he was finally cleared.