Despite all that we’ve heard about Jimmy Savile’s disgusting and ‘perverted’ lifestyle since his death and over recent months (see here), I have to say that I find the prolific growth of Operation Yewtree a little concerning…
Has all the (apparently) previously unknown pedophilia within our entertainments industry actually been as widespread as it now appears or, is there also an element of jumping aboard a bandwagon at play here, by whoever and for whatever reason?
The Police operation, which began back in 2012 and not long after demise of Sir Jimmy Savile, was pursuing around 120 separate lines of inquiry during its early days, according to Scotland Yard. A factor which was reported widely in the media then (see BBC) and still is today.
Thanks to the Savile can-of-worms, it now appears that our entertainment industry of the day was allegedly riddled with ‘sex offenders’ in the past. Adults and children, including a boy of eight, were abused by Jimmy Savile, according to the joint NSPCC and Police Yewtree Report which details allegations spanning a 50 year period (see here).
By the end of 2012, the Operation Yewtree team said “589 alleged victims had subsequently come forward” during their investigations into Savile and others. Of those alleged victims, 82% were female and 80% were children or young people (source BBC).
Now the actor Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster in Coronation Street), is also facing 19 charges relating to alleged offences between 2001 and 2010 (see here). Recently Rolf Harris was named by The Sun as a ‘suspect’ in the Yewtree allegations of sexual offences” (see here). That allegation was closely followed by similar ones against William Roache who has since been charged.
Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967…(Nazir Afzal – CPS North West)
The fall-out from the Savile Scandal has also reignited the fire under the distasteful record of Gary Glitter who was subsequently arrested again. The DJ Dave Lee Travis and comedian Fredie Starr have both had their collars felt in the last few months and only yesterday (02-May-2013), the previously well-loved TV/Radio presenter Stuart Hall, late of It’s A Knockout fame, pleaded guilty to the offences he was previously charged with (see here).
Now even the renowned and prolific celebrity PR mogul Max Clifford has been charged with 11 counts of indecent assault against teenagers (see here). Like some others I’m prompted to yell…WTF? One cynical commentator quickly suggested; “if Clifford can’t spin his way out of this, what hope have ‘ordinary’ celebrities got?”
Comments such as that may be comical at face value but they are also unfair, the tone (as with much of that espoused by our media), is actually a suggestion of guilt prior to any court conviction. It must therefore be understandable that Clifford should claim he is being pilloried and “held up to national shame.” Whether or not his comment of, “if the Jimmy Savile situation had not come along none of this would be happening” turns out to be true, will be (rightly) wholly dependent upon the outcome of a court of law. If indeed it progresses that far?
Today Op Yewtree involves somewhere in the region of 70 police detectives and has so far cost upwards of £2M (as at the end of April 2012). Despite resulting in some well founded criticism of the BBC, revealing some police failings and highlighting so many previous lost chances to prosecute, it also has its critics. It’s good that the operation has been Giving Victims A Voice, all be it belatedly, and it also appears to be adept at rooting out so many ‘alledged’ offenders. I am however wondering; could it be that Yewtree is now (hopefully unintentionally) becoming something of a media fuelled Witch-Hunt, rather than the bona fide criminal ‘investigation’ it originally set out to be?
Freddie Starr believes cops are after him because they failed to nail Jimmy Savile…(mirror.co.uk)
Despite any obvious attempt by Starr to clear his name, doesn’t he actually have a valid point? It’s looking like we now have what can only be described as ‘open season’ on anyone who enjoyed celebrity status during the 1960/70/80s. A desire to air our historic dirty washing in public which are moves designed to mitigate against our previous system failures perhaps? It’s another one of those situations which plays directly into the hands of our emotive tabloid media.
Another household TV name is being investigated over sex abuse allegations by Jimmy Savile police… Allegations of historic sexual abuse have been made against the TV favourite, who denies the claims… Police yesterday refused to confirm who the much-loved comedian was… The Sunday Mirror knows the identity of the man, now in his 70s, but we have decided not to name him…(mirror.co.uk)
Writing in The Mail at the end of last month Peter McKay was (obviously) waxing cynical when he commented on the above story under the headline; Sir, we are charging you with being a celebrity…(see here). He suggested that police from Operation Yewtree, were only “pursuing alleged ‘historic’ sex crimes by the famous.”
In his piece he asked; “what if you were the victim of a serious assault in the past which was not sexual in character — a mugging or a savage beating, say, by a famous person which took place in 1966? Would the police begin proceedings against the celebrity you say was responsible?”
Apparently McKay sought clarity and an answer from a friend of his who happened to be a QC… The learned gentleman thought not, “especially if it’s simply one person’s word against another’s.” The QC also suspected that Yewtree could well be a “publicity stunt.”
The QC (allegedly) went on to say that “outside of old murders solved by new DNA procedures, few, if any, ‘historic’ assault cases are tried.” Could McKay’s cynicism also be well founded when he says; “But sex crimes are more news-worthy than beatings and muggings. Especially if the victims are young girls and the alleged abusers are, or were, famous.” I wonder? Always assuming the QC isn’t part of some ‘establishment’ paedophile ring himself? Surely not?
There is no doubt however that there will be many ‘celebrities’ panicking about their past catching up with them. If only because of an incident that what was once considered to be ‘harmless’ petting or flirting, is now considered to be a criminal offence of sexual abuse.
Turning things around somewhat and by way of an example; isn’t it worth remembering that homosexuality was once considered to be a criminal offence in this country but now, in more enlightened times, it’s actually embraced as a valuable aspect of our diverse society. Would we set up a team of detectives to chase after everyone who was in a gay relationship prior to 1967?
And all this before you even start to consider the well-known ‘casting-couch’ situations that were once accepted normality within the entertainments industry, a process that undoubtedly propelled numerous wannabee starlets (often willingly) towards fame and fortune in the past. I’m not saying any of this is right but I am asking, isn’t rather simplistic and somewhat naive to ignore or negate these additional factors?
Also, from a more pragmatic viewpoint, unlike the emotive views often expressed from our media which in-turn are fuelled by an often contrived public angst within social media forums, I’m also prompted to raise the following additional questions.
- Could there be any merit in the (cynical?) suggestions raised and put forward by Peter McKay (see above)?
- Haven’t we arrived here because many of the ‘standards’ of ‘acceptable’ behaviour are different today than they once were?
- Isn’t this situation (partly) reminiscent of many of those well-published ‘travesties’ of justice. The type of case where a person convicted of a crime (soundly) in the past, subsequently has a sentence quashed years later, often due to advances in forensic science and/or DNA technology?
- Irrespective of genuine victims feeling more comfortable about actually being believed now; how many have seized upon Yewtree as an opportunity to placate their feelings of self-deprecation and/or sense of being belittled or undervalued during an aspirational period in their life?
- How many ‘victims’ have found an opportunity to punish an individual (or system) that has (in their eyes) failed them in the past in some way?
In summary; I don’t condone any abuse of power, position or status especially when it’s used for the forceful imposition of any unwanted sexual advances. I can however empathise with the emotional and/or physical pain some have undoubtedly experienced in the past (and since) because of Savile and others like him. I have no wish to discourage any genuine victim from coming forward with a complaint in the future. Indeed, I applaud and hold admiration for all those victims who have already found the strength to do so.
But as a final thought; could it be that our perception regarding the extent of Peadophillia in our society (then or now) is similar to our general perception of violent crime i.e. usually wrongly for a myriad of reasons, we genuinely believe there is more of it than there actually is?
- Rolf Harris investigation into alleged sex abuse moves to Australia (independent.co.uk)
- Bill Roache: Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow charged with two counts of rape – Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk)
- Freddie Starr rearrested by Jimmy Savile police (metro.co.uk)
- Stuart Hall: Veteran BBC broadcaster admits 14 counts of indecent assault (dailymail.co.uk)
- Rolf Harris in sex offence inquiry (bbc.co.uk)