Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 20 November 2014

Daniel O'Donnell: Unfair Cliff Richard's name made public before case is fully investigated

Daniel O'Donnell with Cliff Richard at the Donegal Shore Festival in 2003
Daniel O'Donnell with Cliff Richard at the Donegal Shore Festival in 2003

Daniel O'Donnell has said his close friend Sir Cliff Richard should never have been named after a sex abuse claim was levelled against him.

The Irish singer, who has known Sir Cliff since the Eighties, described him as a "really genuine, good person who would do nothing to anybody, least of all a child".

Sir Cliff is under investigation after allegations were made that he was involved in sexually assaulting a boy under 16 at a rally by US evangelist Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985 – something the singer denies.

Daniel said he felt it was "absolutely unfair and unjust" that Cliff's name was made public before the case had been fully investigated.

"In my limited knowledge of the law, I don't think we should know at this stage who the accused is," he said.

"I think the way it has all been conducted is definitely unfair and not in keeping with the law. It is like there is some kind of witch- hunt," he said.

The Donegal-born star added that steps should be taken to ensure that the name of an accused person was protected until they were charged with an offence.

"It's not the first time this has happened and an individual's name has been made public before being charged. In some of those cases, the person was later deemed not to have a case to answer. But, by then, the damage was done to the person's reputation," he said.

"As well as everything else, this also diminishes the legitimate cases of people who have been abused."

Daniel added: "In Cliff's case, his name should not have been revealed until good investigative work is done to see if there are any grounds for the case to go any further. And I believe that Cliff will not have a case to answer."

Last week Daniel's wife Majella took to Twitter to defend the singer.

Sir Cliff has now been interviewed under caution by South Yorkshire Police detectives investigating the sex crime claim.

The veteran star voluntarily met members of South Yorkshire Police at the weekend, and was not arrested or charged. South Yorkshire police said they had spoken to a 73-year-old man.

"The man was interviewed under caution but was not arrested. He entered South Yorkshire Police premises by arrangement."

The singer's Berkshire apartment was searched by police last week as part of the investigation.

A spokesman for Sir Cliff said: "He co-operated fully with officers and answered the questions put to him. Other than restating that this allegation is completely false and that he will continue to co-operate fully with the police, it would not be appropriate for Sir Cliff to say anything further at this time."

Sir Cliff was in Portugal when the search took place on August 14. His fans have rallied round the veteran star since the allegation became public and are showing their support by buying copies of his 1992 hit I Still Believe In You.

Last night it re-entered the charts at No. 57.

Meanwhile, the BBC has been accused of a "cover-up" over its role in the raid by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police.

South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton claimed the corporation appeared to "distance itself from what had happened" after it broadcast the raid on the pop star's penthouse.

The BBC, which had a film crew on the scene, broke the news of the search but has been heavily criticised for its handling of the story.

Mr Crompton said the force was approached by a BBC journalist with detailed information about its investigation. It "reluctantly agreed" to give the reporter notice of the day officers planned to search the property to dissuade the corporation from publishing details in advance and protect the "integrity of the investigation".

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Your Horoscopes by Russell Grant

Scorpio:

Resist the temptation to splash out on a luxury purchase. It's better to practice frugality right now. Fortunately, you're very good at stretching your resources. If a child or romantic partner asks you to spend beyond your means, explain your financial situation. When your loved ones understand you are struggling with financial constraints, they'll be able to give you the sympathy and encouragement you need. Don't worry; this situation is only temporary.More