Sir Cliff 'thrilled' after probe into 'vile' sex abuse claims is dropped
Sir Cliff Richard has said he is "thrilled" that he is to face no further action over "vile accusations" of historical sexual abuse.
He spoke out after t he Crown Prosecution Service said there was "insufficient evidence to prosecute" and South Yorkshire Police said it "apologised wholeheartedly" for its " initial handling of the media interest" in its investigation
In a statement, Sir Cliff, 75, said: "I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close."
Sir Cliff said: "After almost two years under police investigation I learnt today that they have finally closed their enquiries.
"I have always maintained my innocence, co-operated fully with the investigation, and cannot understand why it has taken so long to get to this point!
"Nevertheless, I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close.
"Ever since the highly-publicised and BBC-filmed raid on my home I have chosen not to speak publicly. Even though I was under pressure to 'speak out', other than to state my innocence, which was easy for me to do as I have never molested anyone in my life, I chose to remain silent."
The initial raid by South Yorkshire Police detectives on Sir Cliff's home in Berkshire in August 2014 was broadcast on live TV following a controversial agreement between the BBC and the force.
In its statement today, the force said it "apologised wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused by our initial handling of the media interest in this case".
It added: "Following an initial allegation received by the force in April 2014, South Yorkshire detectives have explored and gathered all information available and carried out a thorough and detailed investigation, which has covered the UK and abroad.
"The investigation, which has spanned two years, is estimated to have cost in the region of £800,000, including staffing costs.
"After careful consideration of the evidence provided to them, the CPS has concluded that no further action should be taken against the man due to there being insufficient evidence to prosecute.
"A further five allegations considered by the investigation team did not meet the threshold for referral to CPS for a charging decision.
"South Yorkshire Police accept the decision of the CPS in this case and all those involved have been informed."
Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "The CPS has carefully reviewed evidence relating to claims of non-recent sexual offences dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men.
"We have decided that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.
"This decision has been made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance for prosecutors on cases of sexual offences.
"The CPS worked with police during the investigation. This has helped minimise the time needed to reach a decision once we received the complete file of evidence on 10 May."
Aerial footage of the raid on Sir Cliff's house was broadcast on the BBC, prompting claims police tipped off television bosses at the corporation that detectives were moving in on the Living Doll singer.
A scathing independent report later criticised the agreement between police and the BBC, and said it ''certainly interfered with his (Sir Cliff's) privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress''.
Chief constable David Crompton, who was later suspended, said an investigation into the matter failed to identify the source of the leak to the BBC.
As well as criticism for the investigation into Sir Cliff, the force has also been accused of corruption and incompetence over its reaction to the Hillsborough stadium disaster, Rotherham sex abuse case and Orgreave miners' strike.
Sir Cliff, who was never charged, has consistently denied any wrongdoing but has not spoken publicly about the case until now.
"This was despite the widely-shared sense of injustice resulting from the high-profile fumbling of my case from day one," his statement continued.
"Other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged.
"I was named before I was even interviewed and for me that was like being hung out like 'live bait'. It is obvious that such strategies simply increase the risk of attracting spurious claims which not only tie up police resources and waste public funds, but they forever tarnish the reputations of innocent people.
"There have been numerous occasions in recent years where this has occurred, and I feel very strongly that no innocent person should be treated in this way.
"I know the truth and in some peoples' eyes the CPS's announcement today doesn't go far enough because it doesn't expressly state that I am innocent; which of course I am. There lies the problem.
"My reputation will not be fully vindicated because the CPS's policy is to only say something general about there being 'insufficient' evidence.
"How can there be evidence for something that never took place! This is also a reason why people should never be named publicly until they have been charged unless there are exceptional circumstances.
"To my fans and members of the public, to the press and media, all of whom continued to show me such encouraging and wonderful support, I would like to say 'thank you' it would have been so much harder without you."
The singer, actor and TV star has enjoyed a remarkable career spanning 57 years.
Britain's greatest solo hit-maker, his output of hundreds of hit singles and albums is unlikely to be equalled, let alone surpassed.
Sir Cliff's greatest hits include chart-toppers such as The Young Ones, Living Doll, Summer Holiday, We Don't Talk Anymore and 1988 Christmas number one Mistletoe And Wine.
Publicity of the investigation has fuelled calls for those accused of sex offences to remain anonymous until they are charged or convicted.