Cliff Richard to face no charges due to ‘insufficient evidence’. What can we learn?


You may remember, back in August 2014, Sir Cliff Richard was accused of historic sexual abuse. Not only was his name put out in public but the BBC managed to live broadcast a police search at his home. After two years, the CPS have stated they will not bring any charges against the singer due to ‘lack of evidence’. You can read reports in The Telegraph and Guardian. You may (or, more likely, may not) remember that I offered a comment on these proceedings back in August 2014. I would encourage you to read those comment here before continuing with the rest of this post.

I post below the full text of Cliff Richard’s statement:

After almost two years under police investigation I learnt today that they have finally closed their enquiries.

I have always maintained my innocence, co-operated fully with the investigation, and cannot understand why it has taken so long to get to this point.

Nevertheless, I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close.

Ever since the highly-publicised and BBC-filmed raid on my home I have chosen not to speak publicly.

Even though I was under pressure to “speak out”, other than to state my innocence, which was easy for me to do as I have never molested anyone in my life, I chose to remain silent.

This was despite the widely-shared sense of injustice resulting from the high-profile fumbling of my case from day one.

Other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged.

I was named before I was even interviewed, and for me that was like being hung out like “live bait”.

It is obvious that such strategies simply increase the risk of attracting spurious claims which not only tie up police resources and waste public funds, but they forever tarnish the reputations of innocent people.

There have been numerous occasions in recent years where this has occurred, and I feel very strongly that no innocent person should be treated in this way.

I know the truth and in some peoples’ eyes the CPS’s announcement today doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t expressly state that I am innocent; which of course I am. There lies the problem.

My reputation will not be fully vindicated because the CPS’s policy is to only say something general about there being ‘insufficient’ evidence.

How can there be evidence for something that never took place?

This is also a reason why people should never be named publicly until they have been charged unless there are exceptional circumstances.

To my fans and members of the public, to the press and media, all of whom continued to show me such encouraging and wonderful support, I would like to say thank you – it would have been so much harder without you.

The South Yorkshire police – the same police force who spent £20m of public money seeking to defend its actions during the Hillborough enquiry – were responsible for the investigation into Sir Cliff. They were heavily criticised for permitting the BBC to film the raid on Richard’s Berkshire home. Given the CPS made clear five allegations did not even meet the basic threshold for consideration and the one allegation that met such requirements had insufficient evidence to even bring charges, South Yorkshire police must account for why they thought a case credible in the first instance.

In the current climate, when a raft of celebrities seem to be coming under suspicion almost weekly, it is hardly surprising these things have happened. Given the number of public figures who really do appear to have been involved in such things – very few would have suspected Clement Freud of anything (if, indeed, he is guilty. The dead cannot defend themselves) – one can see how we have gotten to where we are. But the treatment of Sir Cliff does seem to have taken a slightly different, and more pernicious, approach. The live broadcast of the raid on his home, the immediate ‘outing’ of his name and the evident presumption of guilt by many even before any investigation had gotten off the ground.

As I said back in August 2014:

What is especially disheartening about this particular accusation is that Cliff Richard is a Christian. He has suffered professionally for his religious stance. Upon his conversion, he planned to quit music altogether but, deciding against this, changed his act, which had been labelled “too sexy for TV”. In later years, he lost credibility within the music world seemingly for no other reason than his Christian stance. This is supported by the fact that he released a number of tracks in the 1990s under the pseudonym Blacknight, receiving widespread airtime and critical acclaim until his true identity was revealed as the artist. There have been plenty of people waiting for Cliff to fall in the most public of ways and, certainly until now, he did not oblige. Whilst no Christian is beyond any form of sin, it is astounding to think it possible, after such a long-standing and clear Christian witness, that this might be true.

It would appear my surprise at the time was justified.