UK singer Cliff Richard will not face sex crime charges

LONDON (Reuters) - Singer Cliff Richard, one of Britain’s best-known entertainers, will not face charges over alleged historical sex crimes because there is not enough evidence, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Pop star Cliff Richard shows off his medal as he leaves Buckingham Palace after picking up his knighthood from the Queen, in London, Britain October 25, 1995. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was handed a file of evidence by police in May relating to allegations against Richard, 75.

“The CPS has carefully reviewed evidence relating to claims of non-recent sexual offences dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men,” said Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside.

“We have decided that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

Richard has never been arrested but twice voluntarily met officers from South Yorkshire Police after it launched an inquiry in 2014.

The first interview took place after police raided his home in August 2014 when he was on holiday. The search was filmed by the BBC after the broadcaster was given advance warning.

That raid led to criticism from lawmakers who described the co-operation between the police and the BBC as “inept” and causing “irreparable damage” to the singer’s reputation.

Richard himself said in a statement on Thursday he feared his reputation would never be fully restored.

“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,” he added.

“My reputation will not be fully vindicated because the CPS’ policy is to only say something general about there being ‘insufficient’ evidence.

“Nevertheless, I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close.”

Richard, born Harry Webb in 1940 and who was often called Britain’s Elvis Presley early in his career, has had 14 No. 1 singles in Britain.

He is the only singer to have topped the UK singles chart in five consecutive decades, from the 50s to the 90s, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1995.

With his backing group The Shadows, Richard was one of Britain’s most successful performers in the pre-Beatles era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His early hits include “Summer Holiday” and “Living Doll.”

Several British celebrities have been convicted of historical sex crimes since it was revealed that the late BBC TV presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender.

However, others say they have been victims of a witch-hunt and have faced major investigations even though allegations were based on flimsy evidence.

South Yorkshire Police, which carried out the two-year investigation into Richard at a cost of 800,000 pounds ($1.1 million), apologized for its handling of the “media interest” in his case.

Editing by Stephen Addison