Artist News Legal

Cliff Richard to ask parliamentarians to back new law providing anonymity to those accused of sex abuse before charges filed

By | Published on Tuesday 20 September 2016

Cliff Richard

Cliff Richard plans to lobby Parliament next month in bid to get a change in the law whereby those accused of sexual abuse are not publicly named until after they are charged.

Richard, of course, was under investigation for nearly two years over allegations that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of sixteen at a Christian faith rally in the 1980s. Three other men subsequently came forward following the initial allegations, accusing the singer of offences dating back to 1958, though – while he was questioned by police a number of times – Richard was never arrested or charged.

The Crown Prosecution Service then announced that the police investigation had been closed in June because there was “insufficient evidence to prosecute”, though that decision is now being reviewed at the request of one of the men who accused the singer.

Richard was particularly angry that, when police searched his Berkshire home in 2014 as part of their investigation, BBC cameras were on site filming officers as they arrived at the property. Although the BBC continues to defend that reporting, in July Richard announced he planned to sue both the broadcaster and the police over the incident.

Now, according to the Mirror, Richard will attend Parliament on 17 Oct to urge MPs and Lords to back proposals put forward by former police chief and now Liberal Democrat peer Brian Paddick, who is proposing that the identity of anyone accused of a sexual offence should remain confidential until the accused person is actually charged, except where a judge feels it is in the public interest for that person’s name to be published.

The identities of sexual offence victims are routinely kept confidential, and there has long been a debate on whether the same should apply to those accused of committing such crimes, certainly until arrest or even conviction, because of the impact mere accusations of this kind can have on someone’s reputation. Though others argue that by naming the accused, other witnesses or alleged victims may come forward, informing the police’s investigation one way or the other.

Richard says that he hopes Paddick’s proposed reform of the law would end the “witch-hunts” against celebrities or other high profile figures that can occur as soon as any accusation of sexual misconduct is made against them, even when that person has not been charged with any actual offence.

Richard will be joined by DJ Paul Gambaccini at the parliamentary hearing, who himself endured “twelve months of hell” in the wake of sex abuse claims he was never charged for. The singer says that if he can help secure this change in the law, then it would “make all that I’ve been through almost worthwhile [if it] saves someone else going through the same thing”.