SIR Cliff Richard will not be prosecuted over historic claims of sexual assault, after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the singer.
The public — and Sir Cliff himself — first became aware of the police investigation in August 2014, when a South Yorkshire Police (SYP) raid on his Sunningdale home was broadcast live by the BBC. The broadcaster had been tipped off by SYP staff.
The Home Affairs Select Committee later described police handling of the investigation as “inept”; and an independent report by the former Chief Constable of the British Transport Police said that by confirming details of the raid in advance, the SYP had “interfered with the star’s privacy.”
The report said that “people have seen a search on Sir Cliff Richard’s apartment unfold on television with details of a serious allegation put into the public domain prior to him being interviewed by the police. The force can argue that the search was carried out successfully and there was no interference to the investigation that the threat of prior publication was avoided. That is true but at considerable cost to the reputation of the force which could have been avoided by the individuals concerned.”
The investigation began following an accusation by a man, now in his 40s, that he was abused during a Billy Graham rally at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane football stadium. The police investigation continued despite apparent contradictions in the accuser’s claims: according to media reports he got the year wrong and claimed the assault happened in a part of the stadium that hadn’t been built at the time of the rally.
Police officers who had been providing security at the Billy Graham rally, and had been assigned to the singer, came forward to provide alibi statements but investigators declined to speak to them.
After the publicity around the raid, Sir Cliff was contacted by a man who threatened to go to the police with fresh allegations unless the singer paid him money. He was reported to the police and arrested for blackmail; but he made a complaint to the police that formed part of their investigation.
In total, nine allegations were made to police, of which details of four were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The CPS has carefully reviewed evidence relating to claims of non-recent sexual offences dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men. We have decided that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute,” the chief Crown prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, Martin Goldman, said.
“To get the news a couple of days ago telling me it was good news from the CPS was just fantastic,” Sir Cliff told ITV. “[But] in a away I still feel tarnished because ‘insufficient’ still feels like there is some [evidence] there; and I know that there wasn’t.”
He said: “It has been very difficult for me to explain to people what it felt like for me to be an innocent but to have these vile accusations thrown at me. . .
“You wake up, it’s the first thing you think about. You go to sleep at night, it’s the last thing you think about. You wake up during the night two or three times, you think about it. . . It becomes an obsession. And the reason why it feels so upsetting is because you feel helpless.”
Sir Cliff says that those accused of sexual assault should not be named unless they are charged. And he has questioned why victims of sexual violence receive anonymity. “I can understand protecting children,” he said, “but my accusers are all men — grown up men probably in their forties, heading to their 50s. I don’t see why they should be protected.”
The singer told the Mail on Tuesday that he was considering suing the BBC over its decision to broadcast the raid on his home. “What it did to me was shameful. No one should have to go through what I did,” he said. “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 even boasted that the raid on my home was the news scoop of the year.”
In response, the BBC issued a statement in which they defended their decision to broadcast the raid, but said that it was “very sorry” that the singer had “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.”