Paul Gambaccini‘A science fiction case’. That was how Paul Gambaccini referred to the police investigation into the now-dropped allegation of historic sex abuse made against him which led to ’12 months of trauma’. The veteran BBC DJ was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on the operation of police bail in a one-off session which took evidence from the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Chris Eyre and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.

‘I faced the full weight of the state with unlimited financial resources for 12 months for no reason,’ Gambaccini told MPs. ‘It was a completely fictitious case. It was a science fiction case. It required time travel and I do not have a time machine.’ Gambaccini said that it was ‘astonishing’ because the police knew it was ‘a nothing case’ and ‘indeed had known it was a nothing case because, without my knowing it, they had investigated it for four and a half months and dropped it seven weeks before I was arrested’.

The DJ is backing a 28-day limit on the use of police bail. Gambaccini was arrested on suspicion of historical sexual abuse and placed on bail for a year before the case against him was dropped in October. He reckoned that lost earnings and legal fees came to more than £200,000.

  • You can read Greg Foxsmith on the law relating to police bail following coverage of Freddie Starr’s 19 months on bail before his case was dropped
  • www.thejusticegap.com was a signatory to an open letter sent to the Daily Telegraph and Guardian calling upon the government to reform police bail.

There is currently no limit on the length of time police can place someone on pre-charge bail and so people have no rights of protest and are at the mercy of the police force that arrests them. It is reckoned that more than 70,000 people are presently languishing on bail and more than 5,000 for more than six months.

The Home Office has recently concluded a consultation on its proposal to introduce an initial statutory time-limit on pre-charge bail to 28 days (for critical analysis of that proposal see Liberty’s response here).

Human flypaper
Paul Gambaccini, one of a large number of celebrities investigated as part of Operation Yewtree, was invited to give evidence to the MPs alongside his solicitor Kate Goold, a partner in the criminal law team at Bindmans LLP. He was first arrested in December 2013, re-bailed five times before the CPS decided to drop the case in October last year.

The police argued that it was necessary to retain the DJ on bail pending further enquiries despite evidence suggesting that the CPS felt that the case was going nowhere at least as early as May 2014.

‘Each time a reason was given but it was always opaque,’ the DJ told MPs. ‘We were told in March that they were seeking information, but they would not tell us what it was. Then in May they were seeking information from third parties, but they would not reveal [in general terms, who those third parties were]. Then on 30 June when they jumped to the bail date of 7 July they said that it was to re-interview my accuser, which surprised me because I did not know if someone, having failed to get a good bite of you the third time, gets a second bite.’

The DJ claimed that his re-bailing coincided with developments in other high profile cases such as Rolf Harris and Max Clifford. The Committee chairman paraphrased him as saying that it was ‘a concerted attempt to link you to other cases unconnected to you in order to use the oxygen and publicity to somehow see if perhaps other people might come out to make similar accusations’.

‘You are exposed in the first place so that other people will accuse you because in the mutation of the British justice system that has occurred in the last few years, from the centuries-old, internationally-respected, objective, evidence-based system to the subjective rumour-and-accusation-based system, evidence is no longer required. Only people who agree.’
Paul Gambaccini 

Gambaccini quoted Stephen Fry describing this as ‘the flypaper tactic’ where ‘they put up a human being as a piece of flypaper and see what gets attracted to it’.  The DJ revealed that he was dropped ‘instantly’ from all but one of his longstanding media engagements. For the time he was on bail, he earned nothing whilst having to meet his legal fees of £200,000.

As David Winnick MP pointed out, where an allegation is made of criminality, the police have a duty to investigate it. Gambaccini took the point but stressed that there had to be a balance to be struck between the effective investigation of crime and the impact of those police powers on innocent people. ‘There is, has always been and always will be a way of dealing with genuine offenders. It is called the law and you do not need a witch hunt to enforce the law,’ he said.

And, the MPs asked, what of a 28-day limit on pre-charge bail? ‘I enthusiastically support that because I have come to realise that in cases such as mine – and, of course, I do not speak for the entire corpus of work of the police – it seems to me that, with the exception of underfunding, there is no possible excuse for further delay in leaving somebody out to dry.’

Profile photo of Michael Etienne About Michael Etienne
Michael is currently working at a national human rights NGO. He previously worked as a paralegal at a leading civil liberties law firm in a broad range of actions against state bodies. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 2012

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7 Comments

  • George Gretton March 11, 2015 4:51 pm

    As it happens, I remember Paul from College Days.

    He did not give anybody the creeps then, as, in such contrast, did Jimmy So-Vile; who gave very many the creeps, even if they were not one of his targets.

    In my view there is still an unturned stone on this case, but then I am more vindictive than most.

    Have the Police Officers that were behind what now looks like the sustained abuse of him been checked out?

    Should they still be Police Officers?

    Do they have any other “form”?

    Except if you are lightening conductor, lightening rarely strikes twice in the same place.

    It this was a one-off mistake; OK; if it is not unique, then investigate the investigators… as I separately do..

    Yours.

    George Gretton

  • George Gretton March 11, 2015 4:52 pm

    He was passionate about music…

  • George Gretton March 11, 2015 4:54 pm

    Just the one accuser?

  • Christopher Lennon March 14, 2015 4:01 am

    Agree Paul was used as ‘flypaper’, which is wrong. Good there were no criminal proceedings against him eventually, as there were with Dave Lee Travis, on whom they only managed to pin one relatively minor charge after two years and two trials and Rolph Harris, where the prosecution succeeded. However, you do not need to be a lawyer, or suggest Harris was ‘innocent’, whatever that word now means, to note that his conviction on the evidence presented at trial was questionable. He is serving one prison sentence for touching a girl’s back (why was that deemed a ‘sexual’ touching?),even though she also could not remember within a period of three years when it happened, making a material difference to her age at the time. Harris was also described by the judge, in what has become a stock phrase, as ‘showing no remorse’, when a letter of apology he wrote to the father of the main complainant in 1997 had been put in evidence against him. That complainant was also allowed to say she was afraid of Harris, but also had an eleven year consensual affair with him, subsequent to the offences complained of. That is unusual, to say the least, as was the spectacle of Counsel for the Prosecution asking leading questions of the witness, without interruption from the ineffectual judge. Harris was refused leave to appeal and has been moved to a prison too far away for his wife to visit him, unless she stays in an hotel, which might not be an option, for medical / care reasons. Vindictiveness does not necessarily end after conviction.
    Flushed with this ‘success’ and the jailing of Max Clifford, Yewtree continues, presumably until the powers that be feel vindicated, after their failure to get Savile in his lifetime, although he has been well and truly convicted by the media circus and the authorities posthumously, without testing any of the allegations against him, some of which must be invented, through the process Paul complains of.

  • Anne Pyke September 15, 2015 3:30 pm

    Paul Gambaccini was hung out like Rolf Harris was. Many false accusers were attracted to Rolf Harris and the police set about placing them ll in order and set up the charges…..even somehow placing a police officer on the jury. The judge allowed this corrupt influence to remain on the jury giving only one conclusion….the trial was fixed.
    Evidence was not essential, and indeed there was none, only as Mr Gambacinni states, people who agreed. The police harvested plenty of people who ‘agreed’ and I wonder under what incentives?
    We need to overturn the sham trial that poor Mr Harris fell victim to and expose th corrupt Yewtree operation.
    As soon as Mr Harris was convicted the bunting was hung out and a helicopter immediately flew over their next victim Cliff Richard.
    Thank goodness and thank God that the flypaper trap didn’t work in the Gambaccini case, Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck and all the others falsely accused. Thank goodness too for the ones acquitted such as Bill Roache and others, but my heart cries for Rolf Harris.

  • linda September 15, 2015 6:02 pm

    it is a shame innocent people have to find out the laws of the land have been changed to suite the police and help them get convictions instead of protecting people against false allegations ,how can you prove your inersant when there is no evidence in the first place

    ANY ONE can can make allegations against any one
    the police have said come forward and you will be believed ,at the end of the day its all about money and jobs
    jobs for the police ,the legal profession ,

    but what about the innocent who have been found guilty under these new laws
    who are in so many jails now
    locked up
    for years with no running water or toilet in there cells who can not prove they are innocent of a crime that did not happen

  • Julie Healy September 15, 2016 9:37 pm

    There are a growing number of people, who are supporting people who have been falsely accused/wrongly convicted. Soon there will come a point , and not long now, where this cannot be ignored anymore. People are being convicted on the words of others, with no evidence and dates that have a vast time frame (no precise date needed) . Some people are being convicted on things that “happened” from year ? to year ? or from certain months within the year. So if a “crime” was committed , the accuser would know the time and date, and not be so vague!!! All out for money and revenge ! The justice system supports this – so for those that really have been abused, they have been ignored in the past, and those that are accused now are paying the price for the failure of the police and the CPS !

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