FACT comments on the Jimmy Savile case

There is no doubt that the Sir Jimmy Savile affair is both shocking and disturbing.  The truth however is that none of us know whether, or not, the allegations made against him are indeed all true, partly true/untrue or wholly untrue.

If they are true (in whole or in part) they represent a major betrayal of trust by Sir Jimmy Savile himself and by those who sponsored his activities and failed to protect the vulnerable children and adults that he exploited.

Unfortunately Jimmy Savile is not here to give his side of the story. If he were, no doubt, the stories which have unfolded in the Press will have had a much different shape to them.

What concerns us as an organisation dedicated to those who, in the past, have been falsely accused of abuse is that the Press (with a few exceptions) seem to have abandoned principles of fairness when reporting his alleged crimes.  They have been able to do so because they cannot be held in contempt of court because Savile cannot be prosecuted posthumously, nor can he be libelled.

The eagerness of the Press to ‘publish and be dammed’ in a post Leveson era would, (even if later the allegations proved to be justified) rightly, have been curtailed as soon as any lurid headlines appeared to imply guilt.

Justice is inviolate and cannot simply be turned off just because a person, who happened to be a celebrity, is dead.

We are therefore entitled to ask what ever happened to the noble principle of innocent until proven guilty?

We are also entitled to ask why the Press seems not to have …

  • remembered recent lessons in other celebrity cases when individuals were accused of abuse but who evidence showed were not guilty.
  • acknowledge that claims of celebrity wrongdoing, even if true, are bound to lead to a media frenzy which if not checked, soon leads a press frenzy and moral panic which traps the innocent as well the guilty.

For these reasons we applaud those reporters who have shown moral and professional courage by challenging  the received view of Saville currently articulated by the mainstream press, politicians and/or the general public that you ARE  guilty until you can prove your innocence, at least when you are dead.

For these reasons we urge you to read …

Wednesday 3 October 2012
The savaging of Jimmy Savile
The only beneficiary of the accusations against Savile is the suspicion-spreading child-protection industry.
Monday 15 October 2012
Savile: the mad hunt for a conspiracy of witches
With its contagion of accusation and counter-accusation, the Savile scandal has exposed the Salem-style irrationalism of the modern elite.
and also to listen to the The Moral Maze  which, for a short while, you  can access here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moralmaze
It might also be worth bearing in minds the words of the late Richard Webster – a cultural historian who believed that many abuse scandals word wide were the the result of a moral panic driven to a large extent by irrational thought and fear. He warned us , quoting the Lord Woolf the Lord  Chief Justice,  that sincerity on the part of a witness should not be taken as a guarantee of veracity’
‘As a society, we…have swung from an attitude of almost systematic disbelief in the reality of sexual abuse towards and equally dangerous position where, at the most extreme, we react to allegations of sexual abuse with a kind of systematic credulity’ (Webster, Secrets of Bryn Estyn  p.489)
‘Precisely because of the strength of emotions associated with rape or abuse, and because of the psychological effect of obscene testimony, it is perhaps easier for witnesses to make false sexual allegations … [O]verturning a conviction in a sexual abuse case, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf acknowledged that sincerity on the part of a witness should not be taken as a guarantee of veracity’ (Webster Secrets of Bryn Estyn,  p.450)
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