Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Take me high (4½ Stars)

On August 14th 2014 Cliff Richard's house was stormed by the police while he was out of the country, on holiday in Portugal. Someone leaked the raid to the BBC, and the raid was filmed.as it happened. The reason for the police raid was an accusation that Cliff groped a 15-year-old boy at a Christian rally in 1985.

The investigations continued for almost two years. In the course of the investigations it was discovered that the man who had been 15 in 1985 had attempted to blackmail Cliff in recent years. The police rejected his accusation as lies. During the two years other men came forward and claimed to have been sexually abused by Cliff, but none of their claims could be verified. The police reached the conclusion that they were copycat accusers, hoping to get some sort of financial compensation out of the case. On June 16th 2016 the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that there was insufficient evidence to proceed and the charges were dropped.

Cliff Richard has expressed dismay over the wording of the CPS's statement. He says he wants the CPS to say he's innocent. Unfortunately, this is not possible. The CPS never makes a public statement that a person is innocent if there hasn't been a trial. The CPS knows that Cliff is innocent, and their statement is just a euphemism for saying he's innocent. "Insufficient evidence" means "nothing can be proved". Cliff is innocent.

The police were recklessly inefficient in their operation. What did they hope to achieve with their raid? Did they really think they could find evidence of something that Cliff had done 29 years earlier, even if it had been true? The leak to the press certainly came from the police force itself, probably from a senior figure. Couldn't the whole operation have been handled more discreetly? The police could have waited for Cliff to return from holiday and visited him at home to interview him.

The problem started with the Jimmy Savile case in 2011. The public became aware that money was to be made from accusing celebrities of abuse. While Jimmy Savile was certainly guilty of acting inappropriately in multiple cases, most of the claims against him were spurious. Jimmy Savile was never put on trial because the accusations against him became public after his death. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "everyone charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a public trial". Jimmy Savile was never given a trial, but he's presumed guilty anyway.

It can be argued that it doesn't matter that people call Jimmy Savile guilty because he's dead anyway, so who cares about his human rights? But the same principle applies in the case of Cliff Richard. Even though he is innocent, online forums are still full of people making unfounded accusations against him. They rely on the literal wording of the CPS's statement, refusing to accept that "insufficient evidence" means "innocent". This is a fault in human nature. People like to point their finger at rich celebrities, hoping that they can be found guilty of heinous crimes.

I'll say it just once more:

Cliff Richard is innocent.

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