Cliff Richard pulls out of charity concert in wake of allegation
Singer hires Max Clifford lawyer and cancels performance following sex offence accusation
Sir Cliff Richard has cancelled a performance at Canterbury Cathedral next month after a sexual assault allegation against him was made public.
Sir Cliff was due to perform on 26 September but has withdrawn from the fundraising event because he did not want the event to be "overshadowed by the false allegation", said his spokesman.
He added that the singer was "sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience caused".
The 73-year-old, who remains at his property on the Algarve, has hired the high-profile lawyer Ian Burton, who has represented football manager Harry Redknapp, who was cleared of tax evasion, and Max Clifford, who was jailed for sex offences.
Several celebrities have spoken out in defence of Sir Cliff. Former TV presenter Cilla Black said this week: "I, like everyone else, was very shocked to hear of these allegations and I am absolutely positive that they are without foundation."
Police searched Sir Cliff's Berkshire home last week as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a Christian rally in 1985 in Sheffield. The BBC's live coverage of the raid prompted 480 complaints to the broadcaster, as well as allegations of a witch hunt and questions about whether the singer should have been identified.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former director of public prosecutions, has told The Times that the raid might even be illegal because police failed to tell a magistrates court about its deal with the media. However, a spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said it was "not common practice" to inform the court of any media involvement.
Tony Hall, BBC director general, and David Crompton, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, will be summoned before MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain how the corporation knew in advance that Sir Cliff's home was to be searched.
A BBC spokesman has said the corporation "does not name its sources nor is it appropriate to go into detail around editorial processes".
Cliff Richard raid: a BBC 'witch hunt' or a fair scoop?
The BBC's coverage of the sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard has sparked a fierce debate about a suspect's right to anonymity and the relationship between the media and police.
Sir Cliff was said to be "furious" that the press knew about a police raid on his Berkshire home before he did, with a BBC helicopter circling the singer's house on Thursday morning as officers arrived.
South Yorkshire Police initially thanked the media for publicising the case after more people subsequently contacted the police with information. But it later clarified that it had not leaked news of the investigation itself. It said that a BBC reporter had made clear that he already knew about the investigation and was in a position to publish it.
"The force was reluctant to cooperate but felt that to do otherwise would risk losing any potential evidence, so in the interests of the investigation it was agreed that the reporter would be notified of the date of the house search in return for delaying publication of any of the facts," said a police spokesman.
The BBC insists it followed "normal journalistic practice" and has confirmed that its original source for the information was not South Yorkshire Police.
But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Telegraph that the BBC's tactics were tantamount to "blackmail" and called for an external inquiry to find out what happened. "This is shocking behaviour by a publicly funded national broadcaster," he said.
The Week's Robert Chesshyre describes the revelation of the police investigation as a "shambles" and says it "raises renewed concerns about relations between the media and the police".
Human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC described the way the police search was conducted as "unacceptable". Writing in The Independent, he said that by treating Sir Cliff as though he were a "bank robber or mass murderer" the police and BBC have "blasted his reputation around the world without giving him the first and most basic right to refute the allegation".
Presenter Michael Parkinson branded the investigation a "witch hunt" and told ITV News that he believed neither the police nor the newspapers should name anybody who is not yet charged.
Dominic Ponsford, the editor of Press Gazette, appears to be one of the few people publicly praising the BBC for getting the scoop on a story that he says was "inevitably" going to come out in the press.
"As we know from Rolf Harris and others, publicity around a case can lead to more witnesses coming forward," says Ponsford. "It is tough on Richard to face the taint of this sort of coverage when he has not even been questioned yet himself. But once the police had undertaken such a big raid on his home, what is going on becomes a matter of public record. The facts are the facts."
Cliff Richard denies Christian rally sex offence allegation
Sir Cliff Richard was performing at a Christian rally at Sheffield's Bramall Lane football stadium on the day he was alleged to have molested a young boy in the 1980s.
The 73-year-old has described the allegation as "completely false", but said he will fully cooperate with police.
According to The Independent, detectives are making arrangements to interview the singer, who is believed to be returning from his holiday home in Portugal to the UK.
Officers from South Yorkshire police yesterday spent five hours searching his Berkshire apartment, seizing a number of items for analysis.
The alleged sex offence was claimed to have taken place on 28 June 1985, when Sir Cliff was performing in front of tens of thousands people in Sheffield as a surprise guest of American evangelist Billy Graham, reports the Daily Telegraph. As a 44-year-old devout Christian, Sir Cliff was singing hymns as well as his own hits.
He also met the Bishop of Sheffield and other campaigners outside the stadium to address protests over his refusal to boycott apartheid-era South Africa.
"I go wherever Christians invite me to speak about Jesus. It's a platform I've been given by God," he told the Sheffield Morning Telegraph.
At some point during the day, he is alleged to have assaulted a boy who was under the age of 16. A quarter of a century later, the alleged victim has come forward to police. The allegation comes as victims of historic sexual abuse are being increasingly urged to report crimes in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
One source close to Sir Cliff told the Telegraph that the entertainer is "absolutely certain these allegations are false because throughout his life he has never been involved in impropriety of any kind".
The singer spends much of his time at his vineyard retreat in Portugal and at his villa in Barbados, where he has been granted citizenship.
Cliff Richard's house searched after sex offence allegation
Police are searching a house belonging to Sir Cliff Richard after a sex offence allegation dating back to the 1980s was brought to their attention.
Officers removed a number of items from the house in Sunningdale, Berkshire, for further investigation, but no arrests have been made, reports the BBC.
According to police, a search warrant was granted after officers received an allegation "of a sexual nature" involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time. The offence is alleged to have taken place in the South Yorkshire area.
Police added that "the owner of the property was not present" during the search and that the search was not connected to Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into sex abuse allegations committed by Jimmy Savile and other media personalities. However, officers from Operation Yewtree have been notified.
— Dan Johnson (@DanJohnsonNews) August 14, 2014
Sir Cliff Richard, one of Britain's most successful musicians, has sold 21.5 million singles, with a top ten hit in six consecutive decades. He has twice represented the UK in the Eurovision song contest and last year released the 100th album of his career.
He was knighted in 1995 and performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012.
In a statement, published by The Guardian, Sir Cliff said: "For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false.
"Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.
"However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press.
"I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me.
"Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded." ·