British singer Cliff Richard demands change to sex offense anonymity rules

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LONDON (Reuters) - British singer Cliff Richard joined forces with other high profile figures in the media on Monday to demand that those people accused of sexual offenses are given anonymity until they are charged.

Richard, 78, one of Britain's best known entertainers, was investigated by police over allegations of historical child sex offenses but cleared in 2016. He successfully sued the BBC after the corporation broadcast a police raid on his house.

Under the current rules alleged victims of sexual offences receive anonymity but suspects can be named. Police and prosecutors have argued in the past that naming those who have been accused of sexual offenses can encourage other victims to come forward.

Joined outside parliament by radio DJ Paul Gambaccini and other supporters, the veteran singer known for hits such as "Living Doll" and "Summer Holiday" said he was hopeful the law would change because people think "there's no smoke without fire" once you are accused of such a crime.

"I felt I was in this hole I couldn't get out of," he told reporters. "I felt like I had been hung out to dry ... my reputation was in absolute tatters. Will I ever get over it? I am past it."

A campaign group, which also includes broadcaster and comedian Stephen Fry and TV boss Michael Grade, have launched a petition which will be debated in parliament if it gets over 100,000 signatures. It had more than 6,000 shortly after midday.

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Gambaccini, who also faced unfounded allegations of historical sex offences, said he had been left under a cloud of suspicion and unable to work until he was cleared.

He told the BBC the law encouraged "everyone from liars to lunatics" to make false accusations.

(Reporting by Navdeep Yadav; editing by Michael Holden)

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