Cliff Richard launches sex offence anonymity campaign
Pop legend says his reputation was 'in tatters' after police raided his home
Sir Cliff Richard said people still believe there is “no smoke without fire,” as he helped launch a petition which calls for people accused of sexual offences to remain anonymous until they are charged.
Richard was publicly named over an allegation against him after a police raid on his home in the summer of 2014, but he was never arrested or charged.
The singer said the media coverage of the raid left his reputation “in tatters”. He is calling for a “rebalancing of the justice system” with suspects named only in “truly exceptional circumstances”.
The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the matter is a “finely-balanced issue for the criminal justice system… but now there is a real motor, if you like, with this petition and these very high profile individuals”.
Music broadcaster Paul Gambaccini was arrested over sexual abuse allegations in 2013 but the case was dropped a year later. Speaking on Radio 4 earlier today, he said he used to love the UK until he was “betrayed” by law enforcement agencies over “preposterous” allegations.
Gambaccini said that having his identity revealed made left him living “under a cloud of suspicion”. Asked whether publicly naming suspects after they have been arrested encouraged more victims to come forward, Gambaccini said: “This is not a competition, who has been hurt the most.”
The petition - from pressure group Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform - says anonymity is essential “to protect the reputations of all innocent suspects, whether well-known or not, from the lasting stigma of a false sexual allegation”.
However, the charity Rape Crisis said false allegations of rape and other sexual offences were rare but had “disproportionate media focus on them”.
A spokesperson added: “The subsequent widespread myth that they are common contributes to an environment in which it's very difficult for victims and survivors to talk about what's happened to them and seek the support and justice they want, need and deserve.”