On Sunday 6th October I went along to the BBC studios in Salford to take part in a BBC Radio 5 Live programme http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/5live/5linvestigates/5linvestigates_20131006-1500a.mp3 discussing the rise in the number of allegations of historical sexual abuse post-Savile. Or the “post-Savile spike” as it was rather gruesomely described.
There was a great story to be told here, or so I thought. A story of police and prosecutors, of charities and charlatans (aka personal injury lawyers) whose individual and collective moral blindness has contributed to the greatest series of miscarriages of justice in the history of the criminal justice system in this country; where hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent men have been sent to prison for vile crimes which they have not committed (for more on this see the works of the late, great Richard Webster http://www.richardwebster.net).
But, as is customary these days, the BBC fluffed its lines. It failed completely to get to grips with the real story behind the epidemic of historical abuse allegations and instead of giving listeners a Sunday morning treat it dished up the thinnest of gruels: a dismal pot pourri of pre-recorded propaganda from the usual suspects; the nice policeman saying how terribly difficult it is to investigate and prosecute theses cases (nonsense, there is no investigation required and they are a piece of cake to prosecute); the nice man from the NSPCC bleating on about the usual stuff they bleat on about (I cannot recall a word he said); and the anonymous “victim” who had the great misfortune to be abused by two choirmasters, had then gone on to join the police and had managed to unburden himself only after a course of therapy (no comment necessary).
And then there was me, an afterthought, no doubt drafted in to maintain the BBC’s love of “balance”; given a minute’s airtime to state my case only to be told by presenter AdrianGoldberg that I am in it for the money before being ushered out of the studio by the gofer. I now know how Nigel Farage must feel, the poor chap.
Had I been extended the courtesy of five minutes on the subject here’s what I would have said.
The increase in historical allegations post-Savile has very little, if anything, to do with brave “victims” summoning up the courage to report their abusers. Rather it has everything to do with complainants making false allegations (for whatever reason, but money often comes into it) safe in the belief that their stories will not be subjected to the slightest scrutiny by the police and the prosecuting authorities. For these complainants (and more especially their money-grubbing lawyers) have picked up clear signals that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are on their side and that their allegations will be gratefully received and unquestioningly believed.
Nowhere is this signal stronger than in the Metropolitan Police’s infantile report on the Savile affair itself (Giving Victims a Voice). In its breathtaking disregard for both logic and common sense the report, co-authored by the NSPCC, assumes that because the allegations against Savile were made, the offences were committed. And it goes on to solemnly declare that 214 incidents of abuse have been “formally recorded” as crimes. Nowhere in the report is there mentioned the possibility that a single one of these allegations might be false. This is not so much a retreat from scepticism as a dereliction of duty.
Yet no one at the BBC or in the mainstream press (with the notable exception of Charles Moore at the Daily Telegraph) has dared to question the report’s methods or conclusions. Rather the BBC has responded by setting up its own expensive internal investigation, which has rubber-stamped the Met’s findings, and has devised its own scheme for compensating victims (seven grades of compo available if you’re interested); and all of this paid for by the licence fee, naturally.
We now live in a country in which, like the old Soviet Union, an unsupported allegation is enough to send a man to prison; where we rejoice in the hounding and prosecution of old men (and this is for the most part about men) for uncorroborated offences that, in some instances, are alleged to have taken place before the introduction of decimal coinage, before they put a man on the moon, before England won the World Cup, before the Beatles. That we have allowed this moral panic to so consume us is a national disgrace for which we should all hang our heads in shame. And yes, it is the handiwork of the police, the lawyers and the Courts, all of whom have the blood of the innocent on their hands. But the journalists must also take their share of the responsibility: for theirs is the sin of omission. And that applies particularly to the journalists at the BBC who, although best placed to get to the truth at the heart of the Savile affair, have, as Sunday’s lamentable effort so amply demonstrates, insisted on looking the other way and in so doing have helped to send others to a living hell.
8 October 2013