Sir Cliff Richard's legal team complain about media coverage
SIR Cliff Richard's legal team have accused the Home Affairs Committee and its chairman Keith Vaz of unfairly causing the singer "extremely damaging" media coverage.
The accusation followed the release by the Commons committee of a letter from South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton which revealed the investigation into an allegation against the singer of child sex abuse has "increased significantly".
Sir Cliff has strongly denied ever having sexually abused children and was incensed when police forewarned the BBC that they would be raiding his home, enabling the corporation to film the operation.
Solicitor Gideon Benaim, representing Sir Cliff, has now written to the committee complaining that the release of the letter was "manifestly unfair" to the singer and that it was "not how a criminal investigation should be conducted". He was particularly concerned his client was given "no opportunity to comment or make submissions to the committee" before the letter was made public.
Mr Benaim rebuked Mr Vaz for speaking on camera about the letter, saying that "extensive media interest was hardly dampened by the chairman of the committee who appeared on television to discuss the contents".
The accusation prompted an immediate riposte from Mr Vaz who suggested the solicitor had failed to provide the Committee with answers to previous requests for comments.
Mr Vaz wrote last night to Mr Benaim: "In the past, the Committee has written to ask for your comments on the matters that have been raise by both South Yorkshire Police and the BBC. You had previously declined to do so."
The MP also pointed out that it has "always been the policy of the Committee to publish whatever we receive" unless it is marked private and confidential.
The public release of the South Yorkshire Police letter on February 6, Mr Benaim complained, prompted "a further round of unnecessary and extremely damaging media coverage" to his client "with no due process".
He accused the Committee of sending the police letter "proactively" and suggested it was a deliberate ploy to "encourage widespread publicity".
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.
"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."