Sir Cliff Richard considering suing '˜shameful' South Yorkshire Police and BBC

Sir Cliff Richard is considering suing South Yorkshire Police and the BBC over the worldwide publicity of allegations of historic sex offences against him.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 4:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 5:03 pm
Sir Cliff Richard. Photo: Dean Atkins
Sir Cliff Richard. Photo: Dean Atkins

The singer’s home was searched live on television two years ago as part of an investigation into claims made against him.

The CPS announced this month there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to bring charges against Sir Cliff.

He told the Daily Mail he is considering legal action over the ‘unforgiveable’ invasion into his privacy. The BBC said today it stands by the decision to broadcast the story.

“My name was smeared in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Spain, France, all over Europe, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand,” he said.

Sir Cliff, aged 75, said he is angry at the lack of an apology from the BBC.

He said: “The police have apologised but the BBC hasn’t and it owes me that.

“What it did to me was shameful. No one should have to go through what I did.

“My name was plastered everywhere before I was even questioned. When they broke into the apartment, I had no idea why. None at all. Later, they [the BBC] even boasted that the raid on my home was the news scoop of the year.

“They have a lot to answer for and that was a real invasion into my privacy. It is unforgiveable.

“They raided the apartment before I knew what I was accused of or checking on my welfare. And now I’m free.

“They must be thinking I will sue them. Once I would have been reluctant. It is tempting to forget the whole thing, but people like myself are in a very privileged position to possibly change things so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“I don’t want heads to roll. That sounds a bit like ISIS. I don’t want revenge.

“I want to be able to say - ‘The BBC should never have done this’.

“Somebody has to teach them a lesson and if it’s done by suing, let’s do it. And the same with South Yorkshire Police.

“They have damaged me in a great way.”

Sir Cliff said he had been accused of one accusation of molestation at the time of the live raid, with others coming forward after the allegation was made public.

At its height, police were investigating claims from nine people against Sir Cliff - with four accounts put forward to the CPS for consideration as to whether charges should be brought,

The singer said there was no evidence against him - with one accuser even alleging the singer had assaulted him while wearing roller skates.

He said: “Apparently, I rollerskated into a shop and then rollerskated out.

“Two hours later I returned - still on rollerskates - and groped him again. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

“We fell about with laughter when we heard that.”

Sir Cliff said the stress of the allegations left him fearing he would die.

He said he is now undergoing medical tests to establish if he has suffered any long-lasting ill effects from the strain.

Describing one episode the day after the police search - referred to by him as ‘the break-in’ - the famously keen tennis player told how he was taken ill on the court.

He said: “I went ahead, but I could hardly lift my arm up. I was told: ‘Just take it gently’, but I couldn’t do that either.

“I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I thought I was going to die.”

The veteran entertainer was at his farm and vineyard in Portugal in August 2014 when he received a call saying police officers had a warrant to search his Berkshire apartment.

However, he was unaware of what he had been accused of until coverage of the raid appeared on BBC News.

He told Daily Mail: “That was my introduction to what they were doing and how it looked on the screen. It was really terrifying, really horrible, and of course that’s when I discovered what I was supposedly accused of.”

Sir Cliff described how the following day, with the media outside his home, he collapsed.

“I didn’t know how I could face the future or face my friends or face my family. I was in tears, I have to admit,” he said.

“I was on my knees in tears in the kitchen. I was thinking: “How can I get out of this? How can I ever climb out of this hole?”

“Somebody got me to my feet and said: ‘You’ve got to stand up, you are not guilty, hold your head up, you can do it.’”

The case against Sir Cliff was dropped earlier this month after a review of the evidence by the Crown Prosecution Service.

South Yorkshire Police have since apologised over their handling of the investigation, during which Sir Cliff said he felt like he was being used as ‘live bait’ for accusers with spurious claims.

A BBC spokesman said today: “The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress.

“The BBC’s responsibility is to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest, which is why they have been reported by all news organisations in this country.

“Once the South Yorkshire Police had confirmed the investigation and Sir Cliff Richard’s identity and informed the BBC of the timing and details of the search of his property, it would neither have been editorially responsible nor in the public interest to choose not to report fully the investigation into Sir Cliff Richard because of his public profile.

“The BBC, at every stage, reported Sir Cliff’s full denial of the allegations.

“The BBC, therefore, stands by the decision to report the investigation undertaken by the South Yorkshire Police and the search of his property.

“Sir Cliff has made the argument that the identity of people under investigation into historic allegations should not be made public until they are charged. This view raises significant questions about the scrutiny of the police and public confidence that allegations are investigated.

“That said, we respect the fact that he is making an important statement in the debate over balancing privacy rights with the public interest. Ultimately, though, deciding whether people should remain anonymous while the subject of a police investigation is a matter for Parliament.

“The Home Affairs Select Committee reviewed the editorial decisions made by the BBC and concluded ‘we see nothing wrong in their decision to run the story’.”