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”.
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.”
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”.