Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 26 October 2012

Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks

A couple of weeks ago, Mail editor Paul Dacre called for the Leveson inquiry to reopen in order to examine the BBC's role in the Jimmy Savile allegations of child abuse.

This is a rather bizarre request given that it would mean Leveson stepping well outside his original remit. But to be fair to Mr Dacre, he is, in his own way trying to ensure that that aspect of the Savile scandal is investigated thoroughly. It is highly unlikely that Leveson will be reopened though and there are already separate inquiries into what happened at the BBC in terms of both Savile and the Newsnight report that was spiked.

I do think however that the long serving editor has unwittingly highlighted the link that there is between the Savile scandal and the Leveson inquiry.

For months on end we have heard witness after witness testify as to how their lives have been damaged by the use of tabloid dark arts such as phone hacking. The extent of the use of these techniques is truly mind-blowing. From the voice-mail messages of a missing (and as we now know murdered) schoolgirl right through to finding out details of film stars, nobody was safe from having their most intimate details pored over by the hacks and then used in "exposes" or other stories.

Well, I say nobody. Actually there was one person who seems to have been safe from the tabloids' nefarious reach. Jimmy Savile.

Despite the fact that pretty much everyone in the media seems to have been aware of the rumours. Despite the fact that it is now coming to light that numerous of Savile's victims and others who witnessed incidents did try to speak out but were either not believed or laughed at. I doubt there is a single Fleet Street journalist throughout the 1970s and 1980s who had not heard on the grapevine about his alleged activities.

I keep reading and hearing that they couldn't stand the stories up and/or there was nobody to corroborate them. But as we have seen, all it has taken is for a few of his victims to be given the chance to speak out and in the words of Esther Rantzen, an expert on child abuse "they all corroborate each other". And many more have now been given the confidence to speak out as they realise they will likely be believed. If any newspaper had executed a proper investigation into Savile's activities 30 or 40 years ago perhaps his crimes would have been revealed sooner and some of his later victims would have been spared their ordeals.

We of course know that this did not happen. He was free to abuse right up until his death last year and was given a showbiz funeral with the obligatory hagiographic obituary pieces.

So the next time you hear Dacre and others from the tabloid world banging on about how Leveson needs to look into the BBC, just remember that Leveson came about because of the phone hacking scandal and the dark arts the newspapers used to get private information on people for their splashes.   Those same techniques that on occasion are defended in the name of "public interest".

You have to ask why on earth celebrity tittle-tattle was considered a legitimate target for their use and a suspected serial sexual predator like Savile was not.

This post was first published on Liberal Conspiracy.

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