Jimmy Savile's fall from grace has been quite remarkable. On his death, he was praised to high heaven by people who didn't know him and many who did, then after lying in state he was buried in a style fit for a king. Less than a year later, after the screening of one TV documentary
, his reputation is in tatters, yet so far very little real evidence has emerged that he was a paedophile much less a child rapist or even a necrophiliac as has been hinted.
There are two major problems here: one is that Sir Jimmy (or perhaps eventually plain Mr Savile) is of course dead. The other is that most of the allegations against him appear to date from the 1970s.
What would you do, dear reader, if you were accused of committing a serious crime thirty or even forty years ago, perhaps on an unspecified date? The only thing most of us could do - assuming we were alive at that time - would be to protest our innocence in a somewhat nebulous and perhaps unconvincing way: I have never forged a cheque in my life; I would never rape anyone; I have never killed anyone...
Furthermore, the former police officer behind this programme acted less like a detective than a prosecuting attorney, indeed, he appeared to take every allegation made against Savile at face value without exercising the slightest critical faculty. It stands to reason that with a mountain of allegations on one side and no response on the other, Savile will be both indicted and convicted in the court of public opinion, yet it would be possible even at this late stage to adduce concrete proof that Savile was guilty of something, if not all the crimes of which he has been accused.
Serial rapist Antoni Imiela
was gaoled for life in March 2004. In March this year he was given a sentence of a further 12 years for a rape committed in December 1987, and that in spite of his victim being dead.
More recently, John Good was convicted of a rape committed 25 years ago. Unlike some or many of the crimes of which Jimmy Savile has been accused, this was one that definitely did happen - the double rape of a stranger at the point of a knife - that left meaningful forensic evidence.
Is it possible evidence as compelling as this can be adduced against Savile? The answer is perhaps. If as claimed other people were involved in some of these alleged offences, and if some of them constituted more than simply groping - as has been claimed - then yes, there could well be meaningful evidence. Furthermore, if, and it is still a big if, but if any of these claims are true, then there are others out there who unlike Savile can face retribution in this life, which is undoubtedly what the police are focusing on now.
There are though two pitfalls which they and others must be careful to avoid. One is turning a criminal investigation into a witch hunt. The mere fact that an allegation has been made does not mean it has any basis in fact, even if a dozen or a hundred similar allegations are made against one individual, especially now that his alleged modus operandi
is in the public domain and this is in many respects a fishing expedition.
The other is that this whole business may be hijacked by people who have ulterior motives. The NUJ has recently sent out an e-mail to members inviting them to participate in the "Savile inquiries" and to look at:
"sexual harassment claims and practices from the 1970s to the present day in response to claims of endemic sexism and incidents of sexual harassment within the corporation".
What precisely is sexism
"to highlight cases of bullying, harassment and intimidation, both past and present".
To most people, the words bullying, harassment and intimidation have fairly straightforward meanings; to others though they can mean anything they want them to mean.
In 1998, a man was dragged into court on a harassment charge for smiling at a woman on a train
, which begs the question, what would he have been accused of if he had frowned at her instead?
The NUJ is one of those politically correct organisations that finds harassment and bigotry everywhere, and it has an axe to grind not only with the BBC but with all publishers, especially those perceived as fat cats.
The Savile investigation is far too important to be trivialised by frivolous or imaginary complaints, especially those which have no relation to what is really being alleged here, the systematic abuse of underage girls with the collusion of people - men and women - in positions of trust.