Friday, May 03, 2013

Modern day Matthew Hopkins or slow burning justice?

When the stories began circulating about Jimmy Saville back in the 1970's and 1980's there was a sense of disbelief mixed with a sense of 'well why not?', it wasn't because he looked weird or because he looked creepy but as I posted before simply because it seemed that people from all over the country had heard 'stories' about him So when the news began to break about cancelled television documentaries, police investigations and as the number of potential 'victims/witnesses' increased on an almost hourly basis, the first reaction of many (myself included) wasn't a knowing 'told you so' or a 'well he looked like a perv' but a more sympathetic reaction towards those who had remained silent for many years.

Following Saville, and the rumours about various members of parliament, there were stories about other well known celebrities from the 1960's to 1990's being questioned about alleged sexual offences. I don't recall any stories at the time about Freddie Starr or Jim Davidson being involved in any sort of cover up, in fact my only lasting opinion of both comedians is that like a lot of men of comedy (you can use the term loosely with these two) they always struck me as very sad individuals off camera/stage who only really came alive under the lights of a club or television studio. As Ray Davies once sang, "telling tales of drunkeness and cruelty",  seemed to be the only way they could figure in the public consciousness once the glow of the cathode ray began to dim and tabloids came calling with a sizeable cheque. Starr and Davidson have not been charged with any offences to date and there is no reason to believe they will be, their only crimes remain those against hamsters and good taste.

When the news broke about Rolf Harris being arrested part of the Operation Yewtree investigation I was in the car driving along at just after 7:30 and I was stunned. Rolf Harris? Swimming lessons, stylophones, can you see what it is yet, climb up here Joe we'll soon be flying, Rolf Harris? Well Scotland Yard obviously believe there is no smoke without rubbing two boy scouts together, or at least they have to satisfy themselves sufficiently to fill in certain boxes on the some forms because they have gone off to Australia to interview a woman who was living in the UK at the time of Rolf's alleged offences.

Rolf Harris is the 11th person held under Operation Yewtree, including Jim Davidson, Dave Lee Travis and  Gary Glitter. Another of the suspects, Max Clifford, was charged last week with 11 indecent assaults allegedly committed between 1966 and 1985. I'd like to just add something here that I have found slightly bizarre in the reporting by certain newspapers of these events and that has been the fact that the names Davidson, Lee Travis and Glitter were  prefixed by the words: comedian, DJ and singer - I mean as if they could have been confused with Jim Davidson the electrician, David Lee Travis the scuba diver and Gary Glitter the perv who did a runner to Vietnam.

And then on Tuesday in what must surely be one of the strangest news stories yet we have allegations of rape against William Roache, Corrie's own Mr Interesting - Ken Barlow, which took place in 1967. The person responsible for deciding that there was indeed a case to answer, Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the north-west, said: "We have carefully considered all the evidence gathered by Lancashire police in relation to William Roache following allegations of rape. We have been reviewing evidence and providing early investigative advice to Lancashire police since 1 March 2013. Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967".

Yesterday morning of course we had the news that Stuart Hall, yet another piece of our collective memory, has has admitted 14 charges of indecently assaulting girls including one aged nine. Hall pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to the offences, involving 13 victims, which occurred between 1967 and 1985. The thing that struck me about the Hall case, in these post-Leveson times, is that the beginnings of the inquiry lay in a letter one of the victims had written to the Independent journalist Yasmin Alibhai-brown which she has now published. It's a depressing read which reveals the same tried and tested means of exploitation of somebody in power over a younger person who was 'targetted' by somebody famous who everybody assumed was simply a television personality interested in the aspirations of a young fan.

Of course these are all high profile cases, the perpetrators well known (and in some cases - and this is surely the point - well loved) 'faces' in our living rooms, a regular visitation which unfortunately led to many well meaning adults (who had no reason to think otherwise) confusing the public persona with the off screen reality. Over the years we've had revelations about famous sportsmen being the victim of sexual abuse (Alan Brazil and Brian Moore), famous entertainers (Billy Connolly and Billie Holiday) and others such as George Orwell being shown to have suffered a variety of abuses, now we have the famous being exposed as those responsible. This might be the start of an important social change, not only in our collective attitude towards those who are the perpetrators but more importantly to those who are the victims.

Just as police attitudes towards rape victims changed during the 1990's perhaps this will enable those people who until now felt they didn't have a voice to come forward in the knowledge that now somebody might believe them.   What was in danger of feeling horribly like a modern day version of Matthew Hopkins witchhunts through the East Anglian countryside during the early 17th century is now actually bearing fruit. Just as Mossad didn't give up on getting their man after WW2 so the CPS are slowly but surely unravelling what at first simply might have appeared to be several cases of bandwagon jumping.


Span Ows said...

All this is seriously creepy. Everyone knows "it goes on all the time" but soon "to visit the BBC studios" is going to be the new "do you want to come inside and see my puppies?"

The 60s eh, free love? Not so free for those that thought everyone wanted it even if they said no...however there are different levels: Hall seems a classic 'groomer' whereas Glitter just shagged minors and Saville shagged anything and everything.

I bet there are a large number of celebrities getting a little hot under the collar..

Paul said...

It is isn't it. Some weird stuff did go on in the 60's but I don't know if it was any different to other decades but this seems to be institutionalised which is a word I really dislike for all its slightly creepy connotations.

I agree about your last line, one name did spring to mind yesterday but I'm not going to print it.

A Northern Bloke said...

We all ready know that there have been true allegations and, obviously, there may be more. There will almost certainly be false ones and we can only hope our justice system has the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff.

As for not printing names that spring to mind, I think you're right, Paul. I bet if you wrote a novel, the ending would be something of a cliffhanger!

Paul said...

It's because I'm a chicken really Shy!

Span Ows said...

LOL...Shy, you're a very naughty boy.

A Northern Bloke said...

I'm glad you spotted that one, Span.

One of the members of a musicians forum I go on has a right bee in his bonnet about "outing" sex offenders. Obviously they should be punished for their crimes but this guy borders on being obsessed with the matter.

Anyway, he posts links to blogs and one of them was blatant about naming "persons of interest". This is where I got that idea from.

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