Sir Cliff put through hell by police

Monday 15 February 2016

Picture credit: Twitter/@Daily_Express

So there is to be a belated inquiry into the way police investigate so-called historical child sex abuse.

Scant comfort for Sir Cliff Richard, who continues to twist in the wind, subject of a seemingly neverending police trawl through his past. It is now 548 days since South Yorkshire Police raided Cliff’s home, filmed live by a chattering BBC helicopter hovering overhead.

Yet still the officers in charge will neither put up or shut up over allegations dating back three decades. Indeed, far from it. Reports that the investigation could yet drag on for months have neither been confirmed or denied by the force, which repeatedly refuses to comment on the case.

This puts journalists and commentators like me in a bit of a pickle. Just as anyone is entitled to be considered innocent until proven otherwise so too the police must be allowed to get on with their inquiries in peace. But 548 days?

As veteran crime commentator Nick Ross coolly pointed out this week that’s three times longer than it took to bring Hitler’s gangsters to trial at Nuremberg after the Second World War. Cliff (who has not been charged with anything or even arrested) was first accused of groping a boy at a Christian rally 31 years ago.

This was the accusation that led to the raid on his home, which sparked a blaze of global publicity. Two more allegations were subsequently passed on to detectives but apparently one has now been dropped for lack of evidence.

Meanwhile Cliff (who categorically denies there is a shred of truth in any of it) is reported tohave provided evidence that he was never alone with the two men who say he assaulted them. So much for the accusations.

So why this extraordinary delay in handing a file to the Crown Prosecution Service? What can possibly explain it? Are the police waiting for a key witness to emerge from a coma? Perhaps officers have collectively contracted narcolepsy and spend much of their time in a deep sleep.

Or maybe spending cuts in the South Yorkshire force compel them to go on foot everywhere. Who knows? They refuse to say. Four years ago, when the full repugnancy of Jimmy Savile’s actions emerged and police began their investigation into so-called VIP child abuse, we were told their actions would be “proportionate and consistent”.

Hmm. Cliff has been publicly outed as a suspected sex offender but after almost 20 months the police doggedly refuse to show their hand. “Proportionate?” No. Cliff is said by friends to be suffering huge emotional distress as matters drag interminably on.

That’s not justice. That’s dangerously close to something known as abuse of process. Abuse of process is not the same as malicious prosecution but part of its legal definition says: “Some act in the use of the legal process not proper in the regular prosecution of the proceedings.”

Unnecessary delay is not proper. Neither is a failure to provide some sort of account as to why it is taking so long. We employ the police, we pay their wages and we’re paying for this inquiry too. Time for the cops to tell their bosses – that’s you and me – what’s causing this increasingly bizarre delay.

Read more in Richard and Judy's column in the Daily Express here.
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