Scottish Daily Mail

Is something going terribly wrong with British justice?

Dawn raids. Reputation wrecking leaks. DJ Paul Gambaccini is the latest celebrity victim of trial by innuendo. Police only admitted the sex abuse case against him was groundless after he spent a YEAR on bail, with his BBC pay stopped. So much for ‘innocen

- by Tom Rawstorne

DURING the 12 long months that broadcaste­r Paul Gambaccini stood accused of sexual offences against two teenage boys, the emotion he felt most often was one of extreme anger. Anger that his reputation had been besmirched by allegation­s he knew to be baseless. Anger that he had been banned from contact with his young nieces, nephews and godchildre­n. Anger at the £200,000 he saw draining from his bank account as work dried up and he fought to clear his name.

But most of all his anger was directed at the police and the Crown Prosecutio­n Service (CPS) for dragging out his suffering month after month, despite what he describes as the ‘completely fictitious’ case against him.

And who can blame him? Because while few members of the public will forget he was arrested before dawn in October 2013, the less sensationa­l informatio­n that no charges were brought against him may have passed them by. The fact he was kept on police bail for an entire year must also have encouraged the public to assume there was no smoke without fire.

Conditions attached to that bail prevented him having unsupervis­ed contact with children and saw him having to surrender both his UK and U.S. passports.

With that shadow hanging over him, his bosses at the BBC found a way not only to get him off the airwaves, but to stop his pay altogether. The Labour Party — for whom he had fund-raised for 25 years — shunned him. No wonder he was angry.

‘Every day I would suffer at least six rage attacks,’ the 65-year-old wrote in a powerful statement submitted to a committee of MPs this week. Since my case was a complete invention, I had no cause for remorse. I did have cause for fury and I had to take great care not to suffer physical deteriorat­ion because of anger.’

They are strong words, but alongside that emotional outpouring, Gambaccini is clinical in his analysis of what happened to him — and why. He was the 15th person to be arrested by Operation Yewtree, the Metropolit­an Police’s i nvestigati­on i nto sexual abuse claims launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

GAMBACCINI believes he was the victim of a witch-hunt. Desperate to divert the spotlight from the police and their f ailure to act against Savile during his lifetime, he believes the authoritie­s launched a fishing expedition.

Motivated by a desire for attention, possible financial compensati­on or long-held grudges, people came forward with allegation­s of sexual abuse. So it was that Gambaccini and others, such as comedians Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck and Freddie Starr, were arrested.

Because the evidence against them was so weak, they could not be charged. But nor were they immediatel­y exonerated.

Instead, they were bailed and left hanging ‘like flypaper’ — as Gambaccini describes it — for months i n the vain hope that other complainan­ts would come forward to bolster the police case. It is for this reason he is supporting moves to introduce statutory limits on how long suspects can be kept on police bail.

He does not want to see others suffer i n the way he has, spending months or even years languishin­g on bail, knowing nothing about the progress of the investigat­ion while awaiting a decision that could change their lives for ever, but over which they have no control.

And nor does he want to see more money wasted targeting celebritie­s in this way. For Yewtree and its 30-strong team of detectives have not come cheap.

So far, it has cost taxpayers £3.75 million, of which £330,000 has been paid in overtime. While the six conviction­s it has secured include those of Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and Gary Glitter, ten others have been arrested, but ultimately not faced prosecutio­n.

How much Gambaccini’s case cost is unclear, but it runs well into six figures. As part of the investigat­ion, a pair of detectives flew to New York, California, Australia and Jersey to interview old acquaintan­ces of Gambaccini.

As legal sources told me, never before have they known detectives so keen to travel to interview a witness who was only ever going to be supportive of the arrested individual.

‘It was very thorough of them,’ one said. ‘But a phone call would have sufficed.’ FOR Paul Gambaccini, 2013 should have been a year of celebratio­n. Instead, it turned into a nightmare. That August, his 40th anniversar­y at the BBC was marked with a fourpart Radio 4 series, The Gambaccini Years.

Featuring old friends such as Elton John, it looked back over his time with the Corporatio­n.

Known as the Professor of Pop, he is the only DJ to have been a regular presenter on Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4.

New York-born Gambaccini came to Britain as a 21-year-old Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. He loved the country so much that he stayed. As well as enjoying great success in his career, he also found happiness in his personal life. In 2013, he married his partner Christophe­r Sherwood, an advertisin­g executive, in New York.

The raid that took place at his apartment on London’s South Bank at 4.38am on October 29, 2013, could not have come as

more of a shock. Detectives left his flat with bags full of his possession­s, including the computers onto which were downloaded much of his vast music collection.

Gambaccini was interviewe­d in a South London police station before being released on police bail — with conditions such as having no unsupervis­ed access to children — until January 8, 2014. Within hours, rumours of his arrest were circulatin­g — something Gambaccini believes was down to a leak from within Scotland Yard. Named by the Press, he i ssued a statement protesting his innocence.

‘On Monday night, October 28, I attended an excellent production of the Kander and Ebb musical The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic theatre,’ he said.

‘It concerned a group of black men in Alabama in the Thirties who were falsely accused of sexual offences. Within hours, I was arrested by Operation Yewtree. Nothing had changed, except this time there was no music.’

No matter, the impact on his reputation and career was instant. He says the BBC found a legal technicali­ty whereby they could break his contract and stop paying him.

He was edited out of TV documentar­ies in which he was due to appear. All because of the claims of an individual whom Gambaccini insists he has never met. What he has since establishe­d i s that the initial accusation was made against him on April 4, 2013 — six months before his arrest.

One assumes the police thoroughly investigat­ed the claims because on September 5, Gambaccini has learned, the case was dropped for ‘insufficie­nt evidence’.

Why wasn’t that the end of it? Gambaccini understand­s that his accuser was then asked if there was anyone who could corroborat­e his story. As a result, a second male was identified at the end of September, and a month later Gambaccini was arrested.

So, who were his accusers and what did they accuse him of? We know from a statement issued by the CPS — after they announced no f urther action was t o be taken against him — that they were aged 14 and 15 at the time of the alleged offences.

‘It turns out these two people had lived within walking distance of my flat in the late Seventies, so they knew the building in which I lived,’ Gambaccini this week told a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which is looking at the Government’s proposals f or a 28-day limit to be placed on bail in all but the most exceptiona­l cases.

‘I was also told my accuser had been expelled f rom school f or making a false sexual allegation and, now that the police were asking people to accuse celebritie­s of sex crimes, he had returned to that kind of behaviour.’

WHY would he do such a thing? ‘ A man in the street is known to the people he has met in his life,’ he said. ‘ A celebrity is known to the people he has met in his life and millions of others.

‘A few have fantasies. Some have grudges. Who knows? The point is that when you open a website and a phone line, as the police did, for the dedicated purpose of accusing celebritie­s, you are going to get some people who are responding to the offer of money and attention.

‘Now, when you say “money”, what are you talking about? The Government posted the Criminal Injuries Compensati­on Act 2012 on the web in late 2012.

‘It is a tariff of at least 200 injuries with specified sums for what you get if you accuse people. All you have to do is say: “Well, gee, £22,000 for this if I accuse Paul.” And there is the disturbing line: “Conviction is not required for payment.”

‘Now, I do not know if my accuser got money. I do not know if he went in it for money. He may just be a distressed individual.’

Whatever the reason, Gambaccini was initially confident the police would quickly dismiss the case against him.

Instead, on December 13, 2013, he was re-bailed until March 26 — six months after his initial arrest. He only learned of the news through the Press. Scotland Yard had informed his solicitor by sending an e-mail, which she had not picked up.

Gambaccini would t hen be re-bailed on no fewer than five further occasions, before the CPS finally announced on October 10, 2014, that no further action was to be taken against him.

Crucially, Gambaccini believes the timings of the announceme­nts of his re - bail arrangemen­ts were no accident. He noticed that on three occasions when a re-bail date was announced, it occurred on the same day as a significan­t event in other Operation Yewtree investigat­ions.

On May 2, 2014, he was told the CPS was ‘ seeing informatio­n from third parties’ and as a result he was to be re-bailed to July. On May 2, Max Clifford was sentenced to eight years i n prison for a string of indecent assaults.

On June 30, Gambaccini was told the Met was to ‘re-interview the victim’, and he was re-bailed to September. On June 30, Rolf Harris was c onvicted of 12 indecent assaults.

On September 12, he was told the CPS was ‘conducting inquiries’ and so Gambaccini was re-bailed to October. On September 12, Michael Salmon, a former consultant at Stoke Mandeville Hospital — where Jimmy Savile abused scores of victims — was charged with rape and indecent assault.

Asked about this by the select committee, the DJ said: ‘Well, you know what they say: twice is a coincidenc­e; three times is a trend.’

It’s been suggested that, by acting in this way, the authoritie­s were linking him in the public mind to other high-profile and ultimately successful prosecutio­ns.

The rationale would have been that this might encourage other ‘victims’ to come forward, while at the same time meaning that no one (in the media, for example) might be t empted t o challenge his continual re-bailing.

For his part, Gambaccini felt the CPS were doing this because they were trying to ‘ bury’ news of his re-bailing. The media would understand­ably concentrat­e on Max Clifford’s sentencing, Rolf Harris’s conviction and the charges against the Stoke Mandeville doctor rather than the smaller story about him being re-bailed.

Gambaccini told the committee that he believed his experience taught him that the British justice system had mutated f rom an evidence-based system to a ‘rumour and accusation-based’ system.

‘A colleague from BBC Radio told me she had been telephoned concerning one of the Yewtree suspects, asking if she wished to make an accusation against him.

‘She said: “No. Don’t you need evidence?” They said: “No, we only need people who agree.”

‘ It is this “people who agree” concept that is the important thing in these cases. You have captured the essence of the witch-hunt, which is to seize any allegation, no matter how flimsy; arrest you; publicise you through their recognised intermedia­ries; and then just see what comes — sit back and wait for the phone to ring.’

HE TOLD the MPs that he believed the case of Cliff Richard was following a similar pattern.

The singer was questioned last August after informatio­n was passed to South Yorkshire Police relating to an alleged indecent assault on a boy that was said to have taken place in Sheffield in 1985. A search of the singer’s Berkshire home by police was broadcast live on the BBC.

‘All I can say is that it fits the pattern of the other cases, in which they have one [accuser] but they can’t arrest Cliff, and they have not, because they need another one to make the pattern of behaviour,’ he said. ‘ They provide the maximum publicity and tell the public what it is to accuse him of.’

Returning to his own experience, the DJ said what he found particular­ly galling was to learn that the police had little faith in the case.

They handed it over to the CPS on February 10, 2014, but i t took eight months to decide not to

charge him. He says that on the day the case was dropped, a Met officer rang one of his potential character witnesses to inform him he would not be needed.

‘He told him that the force believed the chances of a successful prosecutio­n were between 3 and 5 per cent,’ said Gambaccini.

‘I had spent 12 months on bail, eight of those with the case in t he hands of the Crown Prosecutio­n Service, for a 3 to 5 per cent chance.’

Addressing the deeply worrying circumstan­ces of Gambaccini’s experience, a CPS spokesman would only say that while prosecutor­s had been given initial material about the case by the Metropolit­an Police in February 2014, it did not receive final evidence until September, and reached its decision to take no further action in just a month.

While giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, Director of Public Prosecutio­ns Alison Saunders denied conducting a witch-hunt against celebritie­s.

Prosecutor­s had a statutory duty to consider cases passed to them by the police, she said, adding: ‘We do not make any distinctio­n when we look at cases as to who it is we are looking at. What we l ook at is the evidence.’

Asked directly whether the CPS should offer formal apologies when charges are not brought, she responded: ‘When we take no further action in cases . . . we will tell the police and the police communicat­e that to the individual concerned, so it’s a matter for the police service as to exactly what is said to the individual about why that decision has been made.’

Meanwhile, the Metropolit­an Police commented: ‘Investigat­ions into non-recent allegation­s of sexual offences are complex.

The alleged offences, by their very nature, occur in private and our investigat­ions must seek to gather evidence without the benefit of direct witnesses or forensic material.

‘This takes time — but it is only right and proper for all concerned that these investigat­ions are thorough and s eek t o establish the truth.’

Un surprising­ly, Paul Gambaccini says he has lost his faith in the British justice system (though at least he is back on BBC Radio).

‘No one loves a country more than someone who has chosen to live there,’ he told the MPs.

‘Imagine my disappoint­ment when it betrayed, psychologi­cally tortured and abandoned me.

‘ My unqualifie­d l ove f or Great Britain has been qualified.’

Calling for MPs to help push the cause of bail reform, he added: ‘No one must ever suffer what I underwent — an indefinite period of arrest without charge.

‘ It is in your power to ensure that thousands of persons will never have to experience what I did. Please help them. And please help me to love this country as I once did.’

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 ?? X E R : e r u t c i P ?? Exonerated: But Paul Gambaccini now feels betrayed by a country he loves
X E R : e r u t c i P Exonerated: But Paul Gambaccini now feels betrayed by a country he loves

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