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


by Mark Thompson    
9:45 am - October 18th 2012

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Last week, 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 and families 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.


Mark Thompson blogs at Mark Reckons

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About the author
Mark Thompson is an occasional Liberal Conspiracy contributor. He is a Lib Dem member and activist and blogs about UK politics here
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Reader comments


Berating the press for not outing Savile is not reasonable. That is not their job.

Berating the BBC for allowing alleged crimes to be committed on their premises is more reasonable. They have a duty of care.

Berating the criminal justice system for not adequately investigating complaints, if that is what happened, is entirely reasonable.

The point Mark is making, I think, is that the press DO claim it is their job when it suits them. If investigative journalists had prioritised looking into Savile above ‘investigating’ celeb gossip, they might not be on such shaky ground.

@pagar I respectfully disagree with your first comment. The press constantly says how they need to retain the ability to execute investigations that are in the public interest. As we have seen some of the methods are rather dubious and their defence is that sometimes uncovering wrongdoing by powerful people requires the use of them. The Savile case is surely one that falls very clearly within the definition of “public interest”. If he’d have been caught earlier vulnerable members of the public may have avoided being abused by him.

So I would say by their own terms given how they defend their conduct that uncovering child abuse by rich and powerful public figures is part of their job.

@1 pagar

Utter bollocks. You simply can’t help yourself when it comes to shoehorning any story into your narrow political outlook.

What else could Public Interest mean, other than revealing Savile’s behaviour? Charlotte Church’s countdown to “legality” in the Sun?

5. Chaise Guevara

Firstly, do we actually know that journos knew/suspected about this, or are just guessing?

Secondly, if they did have information, how do we know that they didn’t pass it on to the police? He’d been investigated before.

Probably because phone “hacking” is a hit and miss affair where a journalist attempts to listen to somebody’s voicemail by logging on with the manufacturers default passcode.

If Saville either (a) didn’t use voicemail or (b) changed his passcode from the manufacturer default setting then phone “hacking” would be impossible.

The name “hacking” is misleading because it makes people think the journalists involved did something technically clever, it also gives the impression that phones anywhere and everywhere are vulnerable when they are not.

For ‘Saville’ read ‘Savile’ in my comment above…

Mark Thompson, good OP and good rebuttal to pagar’s comment.

@ Mark

The press constantly says how they need to retain the ability to execute investigations that are in the public interest.

Well, of course.

But you can’t berate them for not discovering something they….. didn’t discover.

They haven’t, for example, published the fact that Ed Balls is a cross-dresser, even though there are strong rumours to that effect. And, if they did publish the rumours without hard evidence, they would be subject to the consequences of our appalling libel laws.

Fortunately, Sunny and Dan are more sanguine about such matters….

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 4 Cherub

“Charlotte Church’s countdown to “legality” in the Sun?”

They did that? Seriously?

James, the ‘dark arts’ aren’t just phone ‘hacking’.

@6 James – Hacking mobile phones… in the 70s and 80s? Journos relied on gossips and rumour-mongers. They could have parked a photographer outside his home and snapped photos of under-age kids leaving and headlined with the usual accusation plus question mark they’re famous for.

They didn’t.

” do we actually know that journos knew/suspected about this, or are just guessing?”

I think many of them now claim to have always been suspicious, in much the same way that at least 99% of the public will tell you they were always against the euro, and every sports journalist is now writing they knew Lance Armstrong used EPO.

Pagar – cross dressing isn’t illegal, so it isn’t quite the same level of public interest (frankly none at all in my view). Also bear in mind lots of journos know secrets about politicians, but will often wait until the optimum time to reveal them, or won’t do so because they have a good relationship with the politician. See Peter Hain, who has got away with a shit loads more than most people know about.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ pagar

“They haven’t, for example, published the fact that Ed Balls is a cross-dresser, even though there are strong rumours to that effect.”

That wouldn’t be in the public interest.

“And, if they did publish the rumours without hard evidence, they would be subject to the consequences of our appalling libel laws.”

Interesting case, this. I agree it shouldn’t be libel. But, depending on how the information is obtained, it should perhaps be prosecutable on the basis of privacy.

“Fortunately, Sunny and Dan are more sanguine about such matters…”

Are they? When? Savile isn’t an example, because (as has already been pointed out to you) the dead can’t be libeled, and because Sunny didn’t find out about him by espionage.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Planeshift

“I think many of them now claim to have always been suspicious, in much the same way that at least 99% of the public will tell you they were always against the euro, and every sports journalist is now writing they knew Lance Armstrong used EPO.”

Heh. Wasn’t there a poll shortly after Watergate that found that 0% of people had voted for Nixon in his last successful election?

To be fair, the majority of the public has always been opposed to the euro.

I imagine it was indeed the libel laws which kept Savile off the front pages. And given his charity work etc. the damages from a successful suit would undoubtedly have been huge.

“They haven’t, for example, published the fact that Ed Balls is a cross-dresser, even though there are strong rumours to that effect.”

That wouldn’t be in the public interest.

All right, then.

A cross dressing, smackhead necrophiliac.

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 pagar

“All right, then.

A cross dressing, smackhead necrophiliac.”

OMG, the papers haven’t reported a “fact” you just made up????!!!

Well, Ian Hislop said that “everybody had heard the rumours”. That wouldn’t register if the context was “that Savile, an obvious wrong ‘un, I had his number from the start” – but it was the opposite. His point was that they didn’t know anything MORE than rumour, that no actual evidence was available at the time, and he went on to say that anyone who DID know anything concrete and concealed it should be prosecuted. If, in THAT context, he was prepared to concede that “everybody had heard the rumours”, chances are there’s truth in that.

Don’t know if Private Eye did any of its characteristic skirting-the-edge-of-the-libel-laws with Savile, though. Hislop’s past record suggests the view that, while evidence is needed for statements of fact, rumour is an excellent basis for heavy hints and innuendo. Did any of that get aimed at Savile?

20. Chaise Guevara

@ Makhno

“Don’t know if Private Eye did any of its characteristic skirting-the-edge-of-the-libel-laws with Savile, though. Hislop’s past record suggests the view that, while evidence is needed for statements of fact, rumour is an excellent basis for heavy hints and innuendo. Did any of that get aimed at Savile?”

Dunno, and I know no easy way to check, but bear in mind that the Eye is much more interested in politicians and corruption, rather than celebs and crime.

21. Peter Stewert

Everyone in the press likely knew the rumors (so one wonders at the decades long effort to cannonise the unconscionable shit).

People did come forward to the press and make allegations with the stories going nowhere because nobody wanted to be the first victim to call Savile out for sexual assault and child abuse and then have to face a trail and the attendant tabloid media circus. (There was a former Sunday Mirror editor on Newsnight making these claims last Thursday).

22. alienfromzog

Two things I think noteworthy:

1) The press is very fond of the ‘public-interest’ defence for all sorts of awful things they like doing. As the OP points out – if such a defence was truly valid, and if – as appears to be the case – the rumours were well known in the media, surely any self-respecting investigative journalist should have gone looking.

Unless, of course, the whole ‘public-interest’ defence is bollocks.

2) Paul Dacre is a brazen hypocritical self-serving bastard. (To put it politely). I am both unsurprised and appalled that he would use the story of multiple children being abused as an excuse to attack the BBC. ‘Cynical’ doesn’t come close to covering it.

AFZ

@10 Chaise

Church alleged that the Sun had a “Countdown to Legality” for her as part of her statement to Leveson. The Sun denies it, and there are no traces on their website. It remains moot. However they did print this: http://bensix.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/brass-eye-charlotte-church.jpg

Pagar

Berating the press for not outing Savile is not reasonable. That is not their job.

Oh dear. Ideology trumps common sense.

The press spent the whole of the Leveson inquiry saying that kind of thing WAS their job!

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Cherub

That I have seen. Classic epic fail.

There is more call to include this ITV stunt in the Leveson inquiry:

ITV has admitted that its This Morning programme was the victim of a hoax following a story about a new celebrity sperm bank:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19988311

I’ve dreadful feeling that a real “celebrity sperm bank”, along the lines supposed in this ITV hoax report, would attract thousands of subscribers and could charge exorbitant fees for access.

A further insight into our prevailing social values comes from a popular and celebrated actor who recounted in a Daily Wail interview that on leaving a theatre: “‘This woman was waiting at the stage door and then she took these off [producing an underwear garment] and handed them to me,’ he says.” The interviewer then asked what did he say? He says that he said, “Thank you very much.”

The press spent the whole of the Leveson inquiry saying that kind of thing WAS their job!

quite!

In his interview with Louis Theroux, when asked about him once saying that he hated kids, he said he didn’t actually hate kids at all, but that saying he did was the easiest way to stop the tabloids from digging into his private life looking for a scandal.

“that saying he did was the easiest way to stop the tabloids from digging into his private life looking for a scandal.”

Circulation figures for the press are falling so all papers are looking for ways to increase sales. The sad fact is that tabloid sales are largely driven by scandals, celebrity news and Royal stories, not by serious news and commentary. It’s an education about social values looking at the newstands in local supermarkets:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_Kingdom_by_circulation

Going on about the obsessive interest of the press with scandals and celebrity news will turn out to be rather pointless in the longer run. It’s timely and more relevant to discuss whether more daily papers should become freebies – like the Metro and London Evening Standard – or go behind online subscription barriers like the FT, the Times and Sunday Times.

As far as I’m concerned the tabloids contribute nothing of value (except perhaps in the sports pages) and to be frank, if a tabloid had printed these accusations against Jimmy Savile, I wouldn’t have believed them, because those papers can’t be trusted.

I’d also like to point out the massive difference between accusations of historical wrongdoing dating back decades and accusations of current wrongdoing that have only been stopped (if indeed they have been) by the tabloids being busted.

Mark Thompson says below when referring to the Press:

“So I would say by their own terms given how they defend their conduct that uncovering child abuse by rich and powerful public figures is part of their job”

Strangely he ignores the likelihood they may have .. and Savile could have obtained a privacy injunction preventing publication and preventing news of any such injunction being published..

I will also remind you that there was a good chance Savile might have sued – like Aitken – and may have threatened to do so for all we know.. Given the fact that at the time the police investigations claimed there was no credible witnesses, any lawyer for the papers would have advised against publication..

Some rather simple and obvious ripostes… which Mr Thompson has not addressed . As they took me at least 5 minutes to think up, I am sure he was aware of them when he wrote his article. They are after all the basics of journalism..not rocket science…

Strangely he ignores the likelihood they may have .. and Savile could have obtained a privacy injunction preventing publication and preventing news of any such injunction being published..

According to Paul Gambaccini Jimmy Savile had threatened newspapers that his charity cash would dry up if they published the allegations.

“On (one) occasion, and this cuts to the chase of the whole matter, he was called and he said ‘well you could run that story, but if you do there goes the funds that come in to Stoke Mandeville – do you want to be responsible for the drying up of the charity donations?’. And they backed down.”

The idea that newspapers would refrain from publishing because it would affect charity donations is however a hard one for me to swallow, but benefit of the doubt and all that.

33. Shatterface

“Charlotte Church’s countdown to “legality” in the Sun?”

They did that? Seriously?

I think they did an Advent Calender.

34. Shatterface

As far as I’m concerned the tabloids contribute nothing of value (except perhaps in the sports pages)

They don’t even wrap chips in newspapers these days.

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Shatterface

“They don’t even wrap chips in newspapers these days.”

This is one area where I think health and safety paranoia has made the world a slightly less likeable place. See also: going to bonfire night and not being allowed within 20 fucking feet of the fire because there’s a cordon in the way.

I’d quite like to look down at my dinner and see David Cameron’s face all smooshed by a chip.

Using old newspapers to wrap chips? Sheer looxury. I can remember times, long ago during war, when the day’s newspaper had even more essential uses than wrapping chips.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

Not that I wish to defend the press, but it’s relatively easy now to say they ought to have published about Savile. I can believe that some people in the media may have known facts but that the vast majority who had heard the rumours knew nothing more about it.

Also, as was pointed out, it appears that over the years a number of people did complain from inside and outside of various institutions and got nowhere and/or got leaned on. I am sure there are hard questions to be asked of certain individuals but I think it’s unreasonable to place the bulk of the blame on the journalistic profession as a whole – whichever grubby papers they write/wrote for – about the deeds of someone who was allegedly committing such deeds at the BBC and in other insitutions. Surely the vast majority of the responsibility lies within those people in those institutions who knew about it and could and should have stopped it or reported it (apart from those individuals referred to above who did, it appears, actually try).

I expect there were a fair number journalists who would happily have exposed Savile – for any number of reasons, noble, professional, or whatever – had they felt on safe enough ground legally to do so. I suspect that it was a lot harder than it appears now, not least because there must have been people connected with the BBC, various children’s homes etc, who also didn’t know anything for sure, and for all sorts of reasons just didn’t want it to be true or to know about it. Louis Theroux seems to have suspected that Savile was ‘a wrong’un’ but even his documentary couldn’t actually expose Savile and had to step carefully in legal terms. I am guessing that Theroux simply didn’t have the hard evidence he suspected existed.

What one also has to remember is that there are some crimes that are known to have been committed – robberies, murders, etc – which can then be investigated. With abuse cases, it’s often not known that they have happened at all.

If the awful allegations are true (which seems pretty much certain now, there does seem to be widespread and damning corroboration) then understandably many people feel betrayed, horrified and angry that the culprit seems to have got away with it scot-free. It’s really, really grim. But the supposed ‘hypocritical’ link with Leveson here seems rather forced. It is indeed the duty of the press to pass on evidence of crime, but so is it everyone’s, and Savile wasn’t molesting children in the ofices of the newspapers, so it’s not fair or even logical to hold them primarily to blame here.

I can hardly believe I’ve just written at length in defence of journalists in general, but not everything bad is their responsibility. I do wish Savile had been caught much earlier. But a lot of links in the chain required seem to have broken time and time again, and the press were at the far end of that chain.

IMO it’s important we keep remembering that sexual abuse of the young by others, besides Savile, also went on uncovered in deep shadows for many years. Our focus needs to switch to how and why that happens instead of just heaping posthumous blame on Savile. I’m developing the uneasy feeling that blaming Savile is being used to deflect attention from the wider issue.

“Do you want to be responsible for the drying up of charity donations?”

This is the crux of the matter. Savile got himself into a position where many people and institutions were dependent on him and taking him down would have had widespread repurcussions. A lot of charity work is feudal and involves being nice to rather unpleasant rich people. Charity work is often a smokescreen behind which lurk some distinctly dodgy characters. Making basic public services dependent on charitable activities has a serious downside.

” value (except perhaps in the sports pages)”

The accuracy of most of the content there is rather questionable don’t you think? Even most of their readers know that the majority of it is gossip and football transfers reported as aagreed are basically rumours placed there by agents looking to increase the value of a player.

Whatever happened to that epidemic of Satanic Abuse of children we had in the late 1980s and early 1990s? After that subsided, there was the epidemic of Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, a diagnosis, as I recall, pioneered by someone at the Leeds Medical School. But then Harold Shipman was a graduate of the Leeds Medical School. Is there something about Leeds?

The wide-ranging investigation into Sir Jimmy Savile’s depraved activities has focused attention once more on claims of a possible paedophile ring and a ‘culture of cover-up’ on Jersey

http://maxkeiser.com/2012/10/19/rich-sick/

The sexual exploitation of young girls goes much wider than just Jimmy Savile. Try this on: Sexual grooming of British kids by Asian gang in Rotherham, South Yorkshire
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5wNqwJIGHI

By accounts on the web, this had been going on for a decade before it was brought to a halt as the result of action by social services and the police. We need to know why in these many cases it takes so long for the abuse to be uncovered and for the abusers to be brought to book. The continuing focus on Jimmy Savile is a distraction from a bigger and more important issue.

It would be wrong to suppose that the sexual exploitation of young girls by gangs of Asian men is just an issue in Yorkshire and in Lancashire:

“By now surely everyone knows the case of the eight men convicted of picking vulnerable underage girls off the streets, then plying them with drink and drugs before having sex with them. A shocking story. But maybe you haven’t heard. Because these sex assaults did not take place in Rochdale, where a similar story led the news for days in May, but in Derby earlier this month [July].”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/22/how-racism-takes-root

We need to know why in these many cases it takes so long for the abuse to be uncovered and for the abusers to be brought to book.

You don’t already know?
Here’s some clues:-
Jimmy Savile targeted girls from poor backgrounds and those in care.
The Rotherham 9 targeted girls from poor backgrounds and those in care.
The Derby 8 you linked to also targeted girls from poor backgrounds and those in care.

Rest assured that anyone who targets middle class or well-to-do children will be footed up the arse by the state within a very rapid timeframe.

Now you may think that surely it can’t be just that simple? But you have to take into account the attitudes of those these girls are first going to turn to for help. For example in TV documentary “999 What’s your emergency?” you might have noticed a police women claiming that she serves the public that pays her wages, by paying taxes, and has to deal with the public that doesn’t. I strongly doubt that’s a minority view within the force. The girls targeted come from the section of the public that is ‘dealt with’ while the perpetrators come from the section that ‘pays her wages’. Who do you think is going to be believed first? Not to mention Juries will wander in to the courtroom with their own little fistful of prejudices too. Hence why the cases usually need a critical mass of victims all saying similar things were done to them before the CPS even gets off it’s arse to prosecute. (The Rochdale case even had cast iron proof of statutory rape, which saw no action taken, such is the contempt working class girls are held in)

As per the title of the previous post – listening to the voices of women and children – not enough of that goes on when the women or children come from a background that those who should be listening consider to be rough.

Cylux

Compare this extract from the Wikipedia entry for Margaret Hodge MP, previously a Labour government minister and currently chair of the HoC Public Accounts Committee:

“Hodge was appointed MBE in 1978. However, the end of her period at Islington, before taking up her parliamentary career, was marred by criticism of her response (in 1985) to serious child abuse allegations.

“In 1985, Demetrious Panton complained about abuse that he had suffered while in the council’s care in the 1970s and 1980s. He did not receive an official reply until 1989, in which the council denied responsibility.

“In 1990, Liz Davies, a senior social worker employed by the borough and her manager, David Cofie, raised concerns about sexual abuse of children in Islington Council care. Correspondence between Hodge and the director of social work indicates that she declined a request for extra resources to investigate. In early 1992, Davies (not to be confused with the barrister and former Islington councillor) resigned from her post and requested that Scotland Yard investigate the allegations. The Evening Standard then began reporting on the allegations of abuse in Islington’s children’s homes, shortly after which Hodge resigned to pursue a career with Price Waterhouse. In 1995, the ‘White Report’ into sexual abuse in Islington Care Homes reported that the council had failed adequately to investigate the allegations.

“In 2003, following Hodge’s appointment as Minister for Children, Demetrious Panton went public with his allegation that he was abused in Islington Council care and had repeatedly raised this issue with no effect.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Hodge


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Mark Thompson

    My latest for @libcon – Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks: http://t.co/mf5Z3Fb8

  2. Gael

    My latest for @libcon – Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks: http://t.co/mf5Z3Fb8

  3. MattBuckHackCartoons

    <Reading> Who can ask questions – http://t.co/pwnKDmGE by @markreckons

  4. Dr David Payne

    Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/mJHjZJk8 via @libcon Kate #McCann LIED too

  5. Andrew Griffiths

    Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks http://t.co/MmCqnFss

  6. Jason Brickley

    Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks http://t.co/xdtdCagX

  7. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Leveson is linked to Savile but not in the way Paul Dacre thinks http://t.co/iJ2uV8rl





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