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July 1, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:59am

DJ Paul Gambaccini and Sir Cliff Richard behind petition urging anonymity in sex offence arrests

By PA Medialawyer and Press Gazette

DJ Paul Gambaccini warned of a “false allegation crisis” today as he and Sir Cliff Richard prepared to launch a petition calling for anonymity for sexual offence suspects.

The pair, who both had cases against them dropped, are hoping to win a debate in Parliament.

Radio presenter Gambaccini (pictured) was accused of sexually assaulting two boys when he was arrested in October 2013 as part of Operation Yewtree, set up in the wake of revelations about paedophile Jimmy Savile.

He spent a year on bail before the case was dropped.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he wants “a balancing of something which has gone out of balance”.

“At the moment accusers have life-long anonymity and the accused have no seconds of anonymity. And this does, unfortunately, encourage everyone from liars to lunatics to make some false accusations and get in on the action,” he said.

Critics of the Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (Fair) pressure group’s proposals say it could prevent genuine victims speaking out.

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Gambaccini accepted that publicity surrounding suspects can encourage accusers to come forward, as was the case with black cab rapist John Worboys.

“This is not a competition, who has been hurt the most,” he said.

“There are actually two crises – one is a sex abuse crisis and the other is a false allegation crisis. And anyone who has been wronged, no matter what way, empathise with other people who have been wronged.

“If there is a strong case, as there was, for example, in the taxi driver case… that will come to charge and at that moment other people can come forward.”

Daniel Janner, the founder of Fair and son of the late Lord Janner who faced child abuse allegations at the time of his death, told Press Gazette the press, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service would be able to apply to a judge to have anonymity lifted in “exceptional circumstances” under his proposed bill.

“For example a Worboys situaton where somebody is dangerous,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a blanket [ban].”

He added: “The people would make an application to a judge in chambers, in private, and say to a judge these are the specific reasons we need to name this suspect because he’s dangerous [for example].”

Janner also said he had founded Fair as a “means of rebalancing the criminal justice system” after his father’s death.

“We had to make a decision as a family whether or not just to let it go or fight back to rebalance the scales of justice,” he said.

“This is a reform for everybody, all those who are innocent suspects. The protection which we are seeking is a limited protection and we think that that is a very fair and just proposal which will snowball in Parliament.”

The petition, which needs 100,000 signatures to be debated in the Commons, calls only for anonymity until sexual offence suspects are charged.

It is also being championed by Sir Cliff, who won damages from the BBC after the broadcaster covered the 2014 police raid on the pop star’s Berkshire home.

Sir Cliff was never arrested and did not face charges.

Gambaccini told ITV’s Lorraine: “For Cliff and I, our work is not done.

“We have become magnets for people who are still in the system. We get communications from people going through it now.

“It has turned out there has been a stall on this law reform. Brexit has taken all of the parliamentary oxygen out of the debate chambers.

“In my case, all of my relatives around the world were contacted by British media while I was still being interviewed in the police station.”

Picture: Reuters/Matt Dunham MD/ASA

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