Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini launch sex offence anonymity campaign

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Sir Cliff Richard outside the High Court after his court win.
PA

Sir Cliff Richard has called for a “re-balancing of the legal system” as he launched a petition calling for anonymity for sexual offence suspects before they are charged.

Police raided Sir Cliff’s home in 2014 during an investigation into a sexual assault claim. He was never arrested.

The star said the media coverage of the raid left his reputation “in tatters”.

But the group Rape Crisis said false allegations were rare and there were “no grounds” to change the law.

Currently, alleged victims of sexual offences receive lifelong anonymity, but suspects can be named at any time.

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Sir Cliff is one of several well-known figures backing the campaign group Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (Fair).

The group’s parliamentary petition calls for those suspected of sexual offences to be given anonymity until they are charged unless there are exceptional circumstances.

It needs 100,000 signatures to be considered for a debate in Parliament and had attracted more than 3,000 signatures by the time it was officially launched in Westminster on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at the launch event in Victoria Tower Gardens, alongside BBC radio DJ Paul Gambaccini, Sir Cliff said: “We have both been through the mill. When you know you didn’t do it, you feel you’re in a hole you can’t get out of.”

He said he did not sleep properly for four years, came out in shingles all over his face and head and felt like he had been “hung out to dry”.

He said: “People can be evil enough to tell a lie about an innocent person,” adding that “no smoke without fire” was a “stupid saying”.

Sir Cliff successfully sued the BBC for breach of privacy over its coverage of the police raid on his house, which it filmed from a helicopter.

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Media captionPaul Gambaccini leads calls for anonymity for sexual assault suspects

Earlier on Monday Mr Gambaccini warned of a “false allegation crisis”.

The BBC DJ was arrested over sexual abuse allegations in 2013 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal but the case was dropped a year later.

Mr Gambaccini told Radio 4’s Today programme that having his identity revealed made the year he spent on bail on suspicion of sexually assaulting two teenage boys more difficult.

“Everyone thought it would be a three-month wonder because I didn’t even know these two people, but it turns out that it’s dragged out and what makes it worse is that it’s publicised,” he said.

The BBC took him off air on Radio 2 and Radio 4 for a year “without anyone from management even asking me what it had been about because I was under a cloud of suspicion”, he said.

“All members of my family around the world were contacted by the British media while I was still being interviewed in the police station. This must be stopped.”

Asked whether publicly naming suspects after they have been arrested encouraged more victims to come forward, Mr Gambaccini said: “This is not a competition, who has been hurt the most.

“There are actually two crises – one is a sex abuse crisis and the other is a false allegation crisis. When you solicit more accusations, most of them turn out to be false.”

The group want the law changed so that suspects’ names are not released unless they are charged with an offence.

Further victims would be able to report their abuse then, Mr Gambaccini said.

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Fair was founded by Daniel Janner QC, whose father, Lord Janner, was charged with 22 sexual offences, but ruled unfit to stand trial before he died.

Both defendants and complainants in rape cases were granted anonymity in 1976, but Parliament repealed anonymity for defendants 12 years later.

It was argued that comparison should be made not between a rape defendant and alleged victim, but between a rape defendant and a defendant charged with another serious crime.

Anonymity has since been extended to those who allege to be victims of other sexual offences, not just rape.

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