British rock icon Cliff Richard called Monday for people suspected of sex crimes to be granted anonymity until charged, saying his life was thrown into turmoil by false allegations splashed across the media.
Richard was interviewed in 2014 by police investigating an alleged sex assault. He was never arrested or charged, but footage of his house being raided — some of it shot from a helicopter — was broadcast widely. He successfully sued the BBC for the invasion of privacy over the broadcaster’s coverage.
British police don’t formally identify suspects until they are charged, but names frequently become public.
Victims in sex-crimes cases are granted legal anonymity but a similar provision for suspects was removed in 1988.
Richard and BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, who was arrested in 2013 over abuse claims that were later dropped, launched a petition calling for a “re-balancing of the legal system.”
If the petition gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
Richard, 78, said he’d “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. “My reputation – it seemed to me at that stage – was absolutely in tatters.”