Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Cliff pulls out of charity event

Cilla Black says she is sure the allegations are
Cilla Black says she is sure the allegations are "without foundation"

Sir Cliff Richard has pulled out of a charity event after finding himself at the centre of a police sex abuse investigation.

The veteran singer was due to appear at Canterbury Cathedral on September 26, but his spokesman said Sir Cliff "doesn't want the event to be overshadowed by the false allegation and has therefore withdrawn".

The statement adds: "He is sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience caused."

Sir Cliff's apartment was searched by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police last week as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985. Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal when the search took place, has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

Fellow showbiz veteran Cilla Black has rallied to Sir Cliff's defence saying she thinks allegations that he sexually assaulted a boy in the 1980s are "without foundation".

In a statement, Cilla said: "Cliff is a very close friend of mine and has been for a million years.

"I, like everyone else, was shocked to hear of these allegations and I am absolutely positive that they are without foundation."

The raid on the pop star's Berkshire penthouse caused controversy when the BBC broke news of the search, with a film crew reportedly arriving on the scene before the police.

The corporation's director-general Tony Hall and chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton will face a grilling by MPs over the affair, and the force's police and crime commissioner has launched an independent review of what happened.

Mr Crompton and Lord Hall have been warned to stand ready to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) after Parliament returns from recess.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz has written to both men asking a series of questions about how the BBC found out about the planned search, and asked them to reply by midday on Friday.

BBC News also responded to complaints about its handling of the story, saying it had been "balanced and proportionate".

A lengthy statement posted on the corporation's complaints website explained that broadcasting the story was in the public interest in light of other allegations "of historic abuse by prominent people".

The BBC had a news team on the scene as the search commenced. It said contact was made with Sir Cliff's agent the moment the search got under way and "well before" the story was broadcast.

The statement said: "We believe that BBC News' coverage of the allegation against Sir Cliff Richard, and the search of his property, has been balanced and proportionate. This was a breaking news story, which was also covered across the wider media.

"Sir Cliff Richard is one of the most successful British entertainers of all time. He has sold 21.5 million singles and enjoyed musical success over the last seven decades. We believe this story was in the public interest given previous allegations of historic abuse by prominent people.

"We did, however, also cover many other stories, including the continuing developments in Iraq and Ukraine, A-Level results day, and the new inspection programme for GP practices in England. Our choices about which stories to cover, and the prominence that we give to them, are editorial judgments made by our news editors.

"Our coverage gave due prominence to Sir Cliff's written statement denying the allegations as soon as we received it and our coverage, including headlines, stressed his denial. We reported on this story in a fair and impartial manner, reporting the facts as they emerged. It is worth noting that we made contact with Sir Cliff Richard's agent as soon as the search had started but well before we broadcast the story.

"In common with other news organisations, we do not disclose our sources. However, due to speculation about this story, we have confirmed that South Yorkshire Police were not our original source. We followed normal journalistic practice and agreed not to publish a story that might jeopardise a police inquiry."

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