Cliff Richard Sex Abuse Lawyers Slam MPs For Publishing 'Unnecessary' Police Investigation Details

Sir Cliff Richard's lawyers have criticised a House of Commons committee for publishing a letter about the police investigation into sex abuse allegations against the veteran singer.

In a letter to MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the star's representatives said the disclosure was "unnecessary" and caused him "a further round of unnecessary and extremely damaging media coverage with no due process".

Earlier this week a letter from South Yorkshire's chief constable emerged in which he said the police investigation into Sir Cliff has "increased significantly in size" and involves "more than one allegation".

Sir Cliff's lawyers say there has been "no due process"

The letter from Gideon Benaim, of Michael Simkins LLP, said: "Plainly, it was not necessary for the SYP letter to be published on any urgent basis, if at all.

"The SYP letter appears to have been in the hands of the committee for a period of two weeks or more before it was proactively sent to media organisations, presumably to encourage widespread publicity.

"There was ample time to properly consider whether the SYP letter ought to have been released before it actually was.

"As a direct result of the decision of the committee to publish the SYP letter, and to proactively send it to media organisations, our client has been exposed to a further round of unnecessary and extremely damaging media coverage, with no due process."

Mr Benaim continued: "Our client had no opportunity to comment or make submissions to the committee in advance of publication, but had he been able to do so, the damage that has since been caused by the Committee's actions and by the SYP letter would, most likely, have been avoided.

"It is the committee who have acted as enablers to the media so that they could report on claims of new allegations about which our client has been given no or very little information; about which he has yet to be questioned; for which he has not been arrested; and of course, over which he has not been charged.

"The committee have, through their actions, facilitated coverage which would not have otherwise occurred."

Stressing the fact that his client has not been arrested or charged with any offence and denies any wrongdoing whatsoever, Mr Benaim issued a strongly worded critique of this week's developments and also rebuked Mr Vaz for media appearances over the issue.

He wrote: "It does of course remain the case that our client has neither been arrested nor charged with any offence and that he denies any wrongdoing whatsoever. In addition to not knowing much about the claims of new allegations, our client has not of course been interviewed about them.

"Extensive media interest was hardly dampened by the chairman of the committee who appeared on television to discuss the contents of the SYP Letter on the same evening of its release.

"It is manifestly unfair to our client that he has again been put in a situation where speculation and rumours are rife, where he cannot defend himself because he is the subject of an investigation, and, where third parties appear to know more than he does. It is not how a criminal investigation should be conducted."

BBC crews outside Sir Cliff's Berkshire home during the police raid

Mr Benaim said it was understood that the letter from South Yorkshire Police was "proactively" sent to media organisations by the committee without notice being given to Sir Cliff or his lawyers.

It also described the original letter from the police force as "poorly worded" and "at certain points unnecessarily emotive", while including a "number of significant points which could be misinterpreted".

Sir Cliff's lawyers said the police's letter "has the appearance of being written without the level of care and attention that such an important communication demands" and disputed some of its contents.

Mr Benaim said the singer has not been actively updated with "substantive information" relating to the investigation, claiming that "in the main" it is his solicitors, BCL, who have contacted South Yorkshire Police for updates.

The letter added: "That said, SYP and BCL have co-operated on several aspects of the investigation, for which our client has been grateful.

"He remains very keen to co-operate fully and for the investigation to be resolved swiftly."

Mr Benaim said Sir Cliff has been kept "fully briefed" on conversations between his lawyers and South Yorkshire Police.

The letter addressed the police's disclosure that there is "more than one allegation", saying the "information that has been provided to our client about the new allegations is so scarce it is difficult to comment meaningfully".

It went on: "Late on Friday 6 February, BCL telephoned one of the lead officers on the investigation. During the course of that call, the officer told BCL that there was now more than one complaint (albeit a small number). Very little substantive detail was disclosed."

It also questioned the claim that the investigation has "increased significantly", saying: "This phrasing is curious and seems to us to be - at best - a loose use of language and at worst to be unnecessarily emotive.

"In the current climate, the phraseology deployed was likely to lead both readers and members of the press to jump to exaggerated conclusions, as indeed it has."

The letter called on Mr Vaz to take a number of actions in response to their concerns, concluding: "In light of the damage that has been caused by the actions of SYP and the committee, we are taking the proactive step of making this letter publicly available straightaway, rather than waiting for it to appear on the committee's website at some uncertain date in the future."

Sir Cliff said the claims against him were "absurd and untrue" and he had "never, in my life, assaulted anyone".

The entertainer was interviewed under caution last year by detectives investigating a claim of a sex crime involving a young boy in the 1980s, but was not arrested or charged.