Sir Cliff turns down civic honour

Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard
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Sir Cliff Richard has turned down the freedom of his adopted Portuguese home city after finding himself at the centre of a police sex abuse investigation.

A row broke out last week after it emerged the BBC had done a deal with South Yorkshire Police in relation to a search of the singer’s Berkshire apartment.

The search was part of an investigation into an alleged historic sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event at Bramall Lane in Sheffield 1985.

Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal when the search took place, has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

Today former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP David Blunkett said he had sympathy with the police.

Mr Blunkett said the force’s ‘communication strategy’ about the search of the singer’s house, which was filmed live by the BBC, was ‘surrounded by confusion’.

He added: “I am very sympathetic to the South Yorkshire Chief Constable’s disquiet given that their cooperation was on the basis of avoiding publicity prior to action taken, and the suggested failure of the BBC to live up to apparent commitments made.

“However, given the claim and counter-claim, it would be sensible for total clarification and openness, including whether Cliff Richard or his representatives were notified at the time of the raid on his property - understandably if material were to be secured prior notification would have been difficult.

Mr Blunkett added: “It is important that the rights of the individual or individuals involved should be secured, not least because we still believe people are innocent until proved guilty in this country and smearing those where there are suggestions of historic wrongdoing has almost become a national pastime.”

Meanwhile Cliff fans have been showing their support by buying copies of his 1992 Number 7 hit I Still Believe in You.

Midweek sales figures released by the Official Charts Company put the track at number 43.

Sir Cliff was due to be given the Freedom of Albufeira, where he has owned homes since 1961.

But it is understood the 73-year-old did not want the sex case allegation to overshadow the event as others were due to receive awards.

The raid on the pop star’s penthouse caused controversy when the BBC broke news of the search, with a film crew arriving before police.

The BBC’s director-general Tony Hall and chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton have been asked to respond to a series of questions about the search and the deal, posed by Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee by midday tomorrow.