Al Fayed slams police over sex attack probe

Mohamed Al Fayed today launched an attack on how police handled a sexual assault allegation against him after learning he will not face charges.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced there was "no realistic prospect of conviction" over a 15-year-old girl's claim that the Harrods owner kissed her at his exclusive Knightsbridge store.

Mr Al Fayed, who vigorously protested his innocence, said he was "shocked" that details about the damaging allegation were "leaked" to the media.

The allegation was reported to police in May last year, but Metropolitan Police detectives did not interview the multi-millionaire businessman until October.

Rene Barclay, director of complex casework for the Crown Prosecution Service in London, said today that officers carried out a thorough investigation and made extensive inquiries.

But he went on: "Having reviewed those statements and other material submitted to us, we concluded that, in the light of the conflicting evidence and the absence of sufficiently reliable accounts of crucial events, there was no realistic prospect of conviction."

Mr Al Fayed vowed today to campaign to prevent people accused of offences being named publicly before charges were brought.

The Harrods owner said: "The investigation has reached an obvious and proper conclusion.

"But I have to ask why it took so long and why it was handled in such a way as to cause me and my businesses the maximum degree of damage.

"This should never be permitted in a democratic society. The leaks, the false stories, the innuendo all make a bad situation worse.

"I am shocked that the system can be manipulated in such a way. It cannot be right that an accused person is publicly named before proceedings are brought.

"Now I know how distressing it is to be victimised in this way, I intend to fight to ensure that others on the receiving end of false allegations are properly protected."

Mr Al Fayed was watching a match at Fulham Football Club, which he owns, at the "precise time" of the alleged offence, his spokeswoman said in a statement.

The first the businessman knew of the allegation, let alone a complaint to police, was when a story appeared on the front page of a national newspaper, she added.

The spokeswoman went on: "The allegation was highly damaging and was clearly meant to be.

"Even though the allegation had no substance, its publication around the world caused him and his family great concern.

"Their ordeal was then protracted for seven months, accompanied by further leaks to the news media.

"Mr Al Fayed did not comment, maintaining his silence in the face of grave and entirely unjustified provocation.

"Throughout, Mr Al Fayed has carried on running his businesses, comforted by his friends and family who, like him, were never in doubt about the falsity of the allegation.

"Mr Al Fayed has been shocked by the way this has been handled by the police. He believes that it cannot be right that an accused person is publicly named before proceedings are brought."

Egyptian-born Mr Al Fayed, 76, has frequently clashed with the British establishment.

Despite living in Britain for decades, the multi-millionaire businessman has repeatedly been refused a UK passport.

Last year an inquest rejected his claim that Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed by intelligence agents because she was pregnant with his son Dodi's child and they were about to announce their engagement.