Singer Sir Cliff Richard has told MPs and peers he fears he will be “forever tainted” after being wrongly accused of sex offenses.
The performer, who is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police after a raid on his home was televised live, spoke at a private meeting on Monday as part of a campaign to guarantee anonymity for suspects accused of sex crimes.
He told an audience including Lord Lloyd-Webber: “The TV circus took away from me all hope of ever being what I had been before, a confident and respected artist, and an ambassador for Great Britain.
“Had I not been ‘named’ worldwide I feel I would still have been able to look people in the eye and not feel afraid that they might be thinking that there is ‘no smoke without fire’.
“Instead, I fear I will forever be tainted by the lurid and intrusive coverage I received.
“I have had to bring civil proceedings to obtain redress for these appalling invasions of my privacy by the police and the BBC. But that can never undo all the damage I have suffered. It would have been so much better never to have been in this position at all.”
The 75-year-old told the meeting that he was grateful that his late sister Donna had lived long enough to hear that he had been cleared.
Sir Cliff was the subject of a long-running South Yorkshire Police investigation, which centred on accusations dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men.
He was never arrested, and earlier this year prosecutors announced that no charges were to be brought as a result of the inquiry. Last month a review confirmed that the decision was correct.
The veteran performer told the gathering at the House of Lords: “There are no words in my vocabulary that adequately describe the emotional trauma that I suffered in consequence of the South Yorkshire Police’s and the BBC’s decision to disclose and publicise my name, and details of the police’s investigation, in such a sensationalist manner.
“Only we who are innocent of any crime but who are named publicly before any charge has been brought, before even being arrested or interviewed by the police, will know the damage caused to our dignity, our standing, and our self-esteem. My name was traduced around the world in all the places where people know me. I believe that there were probably very few countries that did not hear of the ridiculous, appalling accusation made against me.”
Sir Cliff added: “I have spent 75 years living as honourable and as honest a life as I can, but I am all too conscious that some of the mud will stick. I sincerely hope that I can play a part in ensuring that no-one else has to suffer in the same way that I have.”
Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, who was kept on police bail for 12 months after being arrested on suspicion of historical sex offences in 2013, before being told he would not be charged, also spoke at the event.
He and Sir Cliff left the House of Lords together in a cab shortly after 4.30pm without speaking to waiting journalists.