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Published: Tuesday 3rd March 2015 by The News Editor
Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini has backed a 28-day limit on the use of police bail, as he told MPs how officers and prosecutors “sat on me” for 12 months before telling him he would not be charged in relation to an allegation of historic sex abuse.
Mr Gambaccini said that he had forfeited more than £200,000 in lost earnings and legal costs during his year on bail, when he was unable to work because of publicity surrounding the allegation, which he described as “completely fictitious”.
Giving evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, the former Radio 1 DJ – who has since returned to work on BBC Radios 2 and 4 – said he believed he was used as human “fly paper”, as his arrest was publicised by police in the hope that other people would come forward to make allegations against him.
And he said he suspected that his bail was repeatedly extended until the end of high-profile cases involving other showbiz figures because detectives working on Operation Yewtree – the police investigation into historic sex offences launched in the wake of the exposure of Jimmy Savile’s crimes – did not want juries to hear that a former Radio 1 DJ had been cleared of sexual wrongdoing.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced in December that she was consulting on a 28-day bail limit in all but exceptional cases, saying that it “cannot be right that people can spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no oversight”.
Mr Gambaccini told the cross-party committee: “I faced the full weight of the state with unlimited financial resources for 12 months for no reason – it was a completely fictitious case, a science fiction case which would have required time travel, and I don’t have a time machine.”
He was arrested on October 29 2013 and police handed papers to the Crown Prosecution Service on February 10, but it was October 10 2014 before he was told that no case was being brought against him, he said. By Christmas 2013, the press regarded it as a “nothing case” and a prospective character witness later told him police had stood him down because there was no prospect of it coming to trial, Gambaccini told the committee.
“In other words, the Crown Prosecution Service sat on me for eight months after the police had given them their papers,” he said.
Mr Gambaccini told the committee that during that time, his bail was extended on seven occasions with only “vague” explanations from police, but he gradually realised that the dates often coincided with important developments in the Yewtree investigation.
Bail was extended on May 2, when publicist Max Clifford was sentenced for historic indecent assaults, on June 30, hours after the conviction of Rolf Harris and on September 12, when former Stoke Mandeville doctor Michael Salmon appeared in court charged with rape, he said.
“You know what they say. Twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend,” said Mr Gambaccini. “It was kind of interesting when I was rebailed the same day Max Clifford was sentenced. It was kind of infuriating when I was rebailed the same day Rolf Harris was convicted. But then when I was rebailed again when Michael Salmon was charged, I thought ‘OK, what they are doing here is trying to bury the news of my being rebailed forever, because if anybody wanted to write an article about Yewtree on those days, it wouldn’t be about me, it would be about the other suspects’.”
When his bail was extended to September 15, he suspected a link to the trial of Dave Lee Travis, which was due to end on that date.
“I thought, ‘This is the most obvious thing in the world. They are sitting on me until they are finished with Travis, because they don’t want the Travis jury to know that a former Radio 1 DJ can be innocent’. I do believe – though I don’t have any evidence for this – that they were just sitting on me until Travis was finished,” he said.
“If you look at the police log, it says ‘DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) reviews case, September 22’. Why does that date have resonance with me? Because that’s the date the Travis jury went out.”
Asked if he felt there had been a “concerted attempt” to link him with other unconnected cases, in the hope that publicity would prompt other alleged victims to come forward, Mr Gambaccini said: “Oh, of course. You are exposed, in the first place, so that other people will accuse you … You can see the pattern in all the cases. You are exposed in the press. Stephen Fry called it the ‘fly paper’ tactic, where they put up a human being as a piece of fly paper and see what gets attracted to it.”
Mr Gambaccini said that the BBC suspended him without pay immediately his arrest became public and he was “shunned” by other employers.
“My income suddenly went to zero, except for hosting the Ivor Novello Awards,” he said. “Other than that, I had no income for the year and I had legal costs. If you combine the total loss from cancelled income and legal fees, it is over £200,000, which I will never get back.”
Asked if he would support anonymity for those arrested, but not charged, over sexual allegations, Mr Gambaccini said: “Absolutely. I do realise that there are people of good faith who say people who have been arrested should be named because then people who have been victimised will come forward. These people of good faith don’t realise that it isn’t only people who have actually committed offences who are arrested and named – there are some innocent people in the mix.”
He said he would “enthusiastically” support a 28-day bail limit, adding: “There is no possible excuse for further delay in leaving somebody out to dry. The only reason for the delay is to try to get somebody else to accuse you.
“It’s not a proper use of the criminal justice system, it’s the misuse of a power they happen to have for other reasons.It’s quite possible that to fight terrorism, certain powers are required, but to use those powers against innocent persons and entirely different subject matter is quite inappropriate.”
Mr Gambaccini said that he and other celebrities falsely accused of historical sex crimes had been the victim of a witch-hunt to divert attention from the failure of the authorities to deal with Savile while he was still alive.
“Someone whose identity we do not know, who I call the Wizard of Oz, the person sitting behind the curtain, pulling the levers, setting off smoke and light shows, decided ‘I’ve got a great idea, let’s have a witch-hunt, let’s divert the attention of the public from the police who knew about but failed to stop Jimmy Savile in his lifetime and shine that spotlight instead on his contemporaries and we’ll get perverts from show business in the 1970s and 1980s,'” he said.
“Okay, there’s a design flaw in that. It assumes there were a lot of perverts in show business in the 1970s and 1980s.
“When you open a website and a phone line – as the police did – for the dedicated purpose of accusing celebrities, then you are going to get some people who are responding to the offer of money and attention.”
Mr Gambaccini said that he had since learned the identity of his accuser and that he had a “mate” who knew where he lived in the 1970s.
“It turns out that these people had lived within walking distance of my flat in the late seventies so they knew the building in which a Radio 1 DJ lived,” he said.
“I was also told that my accuser had been expelled from school for making a false sexual allegation and now that the police were asking people to accuse celebrities of sex crime he returned to that kind of behaviour.”
He added: “I know that my accuser’s mate suffered incalculable personal tragedy and I think is a distressed individual.”
Published: Tuesday 3rd March 2015 by The News Editor