Sir Cliff Richard calls for anonymity for people accused of sexual assault unless charged

ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports on Sir Cliff Richard's campaign

Singer Sir Cliff Richard has said being accused of sexual assault when he was innocent almost "destroyed" him as he called for suspects to have their anonymity protected unless they are charged.

Sir Cliff has joined with DJ Paul Gambaccini to reignite their campaign from three years ago aiming to “redress the balance” in the legal system by seeing those accused of sexual offences remain anonymous unless they are charged.

Both men were falsely accused of historical sex offences and joined forces with pressure group Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (Fair) to campaign for changes to legislation.

Sir Cliff told ITV News: "Having been accused as an innocent man I now know people tell lies.

"It could have damaged my life, it could have destroyed me."

He added "the internet has made it impossible to get rid of everything" and recalled a video he had seen of a man saying "he didn't care" if Sir Cliff had "been found innocent I think he's guilty".

"All we are trying to do is save the innocent - get the guilty!" He told ITV News.

Paul Gambaccini joined the campaign. Credit: PA

The group said their original petition received 27,000 signatures before it “had to be abandoned” when the general election was called.

They are pressing the government to include an amendment in the next criminal justice bill because they believe the “law on privacy provides inadequate protection”.

At a press conference in the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon, the pair were joined by former Tory MP Harvey Proctor and barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC – also part of the Hacked Off campaign group – to make their case.

They want the amendment to make it an offence in England and Wales for someone to identify or publish information about another person being the subject of an investigation “in respect of the alleged commission of a sexual offence” unless charged or if there is a court order permitting this.

Sir Cliff said the experience had almost "destroyed" him. Credit: PA

Sir Cliff, 81, won his privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014, following a child sex assault allegation.

The veteran star denied the allegations, he was never arrested and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.

Mr Gambaccini – who was arrested in October 2013 over claims he sexually assaulted two teenage boys as part of Operation Yewtree set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal – called on parliamentarians to help “restore the reputation of this country as the most just nation on earth”.

The 73-year-old, a regular fixture on the airwaves for decades, spent a year on bail before the case was dropped.

Addressing concerns from opponents to the plan that anonymity before charge would hinder victims coming forward and police trying to build a strong case, Mr Gambaccini said: “If the police are professional, they can take the case they have been given… and they can judge it on its merits. They don’t need bandwagoners to do that.”

If the accused is believed by the courts to be a threat in the “present moment” they could be named, Mr Gambaccini added.

Mr Proctor, who had his home raided and was publicly named during Scotland Yard’s doomed sex abuse probe Operation Midland into fabricated claims of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster by fantasist Carl Beech, said the group was “united for a common cause to return fairness to our criminal justice system.”

The now 75-year-old spent more than a year facing accusations that he was a child murderer and rapist before he was finally cleared and the investigation was abandoned amid widespread criticism.