Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sifting Saville - Part 1

"I just don't understand the motives behind this. I just think it's very, very sad you can say these things after someone's died and the law says you can't defend yourself when you're dead." (Roger Foster, Jimmy Saville's nephew)

"The great shame is that Saville is not alive to face the allegations, but I firmly believe that we are right to allow these women to have a voice ...a voice that was not heard while they were children." ( Mark Williams-Thomas)

"There is a clip of him pushing a hospital trolley, part of the melange of clips put together for his obituary, and he isn't smiling, showing off for the camera, and his expression is quite sad, almost melancholy; it comes as something of a contrast. I was reminded of clowns behind the makeup."

There's a documentary on Jimmy Saville, claiming he molested young girls, which has thrown open all kinds of allegations across the internet. There are very muddy waters, and it is very difficult to sift what might be true, from the kind of wild allegation that spreads like a Chinese whisper. The internet is extremely good at spreading information, but extremely poor at performing any source-critical function on that information.

What appears to be the case is that historically, he was investigated for allegations made against him, and allegations have been made recently by various women, some preserving their anonymity, and some not. Allegations made against someone after their death, of course, invariably don't meet the same legal scrutiny; you cannot libel the dead.

But the allegations, on the other hand, may be true, but being made now because there is no fear of reprisals, and it is certainly the case that Jimmy Saville had considerable influence over the media. In this posting, I'll be looking at the allegations made, and in a later one, I'll be looking at the wilder rumours and their sources which I think actually harm the case made about Saville because of their falsehood.

Certainly, as can be seen from the Scotsman, we can say that allegations were leveled against Saville during his lifetime:

A POLICE investigation into sexual assault allegations levelled against former broadcaster Sir Jimmy Savile five years ago was dropped after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence for a ­prosecution.
• Police dropped attempted prosecution of Sir Jimmy Saville on sexual assault allegations, citing insufficient evidence
• Surrey police had referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2007
• Allegations directed at late TV presenter date back to 1970s
The CPS confirmed yesterday the matter had been referred to it by Surrey police in 2007.

Surrey Police said in a statement: "In 2007, we received an historic allegation of indecent assault, which is alleged to have occurred at a children's home in Staines during the 1970s. 
The allegation was investigated and an individual was interviewed under caution." A CPS spokesman added: "Following an investigation by Surrey police, the CPS reviewing lawyer advised police that no further action should be taken due to lack of evidence." (1)

Now that doesn't actually tell us whether or not Saville was guilty of sexual assault, merely that he had been investigated regarding allegations. It indicates that scandal was associated with him, but high profile individuals can attract those who seek attention by making accusations, or who may want to settle a score against someone and who can do so by making an accusation. Because it is such an emotive subject, we have to be careful in marking out what the historical record can tell us, and where supposition fills in gaps. At the moment, the jury is deliberating.

Matthew Kelly is a case in point of someone who was investigated thoroughly by the police because of sexual abuse allegations in 2003, but was cleared of all charges (apart from a small quantity of Class a drugs found on his premises).

The film on tonight also shows an interview in which Jimmy Saville comes to the defence of Gary Glitter, who was convicted of downloading pornographic images of children as young as two in 1999:

In the interview Saville says: "Now Gary, all he did was take his computer into PC World to get it repaired…They went into his hard drive, saw all these dodgy pictures and told the police and the police then, 'Oh we've got a famous person ... Oh my goodness, yeah we'll have them'. "

But Gary has not sold 'em, has not tried to sell 'em, not tried to show them in public or anything like that. It were for his own gratification. Whether it was right or wrong is, of course, it's up to him as a person. But they didn't do anything wrong but they are then demonised."

"And of course, if you ever said to that copper, what's Gary Glitter done wrong? Well nothing really. He's just sat at home watching these dodgy ,dodgy films. He was like that but he wasn't public and he didn't do anything." (2)

What Saville doesn't seem to consider here is that someone makes those obscene pictures of young children, and because they have a market in those images, anyone who obtains (usually purchases) those images is aiding and abetting the abuse of children. There is a naivety here in his defense of Glitter that this is a private matter, and he is only looking at pictures, not abusing children. He doesn't see that it is wrong, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he thinks abusing children is right. In fact, the interview tells the opposite story - "he wasn't public and he didn't do anything". 

What is extraordinary, however, is that this comes from a previously unheard interview apparently from 2009, according to the papers, because in 2006, Gary Glitter was convicted in March 2006 for molesting two Vietnamese girls aged 10 and 11. Why didn't Saville appear aware of that, and why did the interviewer not bring such an obvious contradiction - "he didn't do anything" - up? I certainly would have! This lack of knowledge about Glitter's subsequent descent into actual abuse seems very strange, but perhaps the full interview will bring that out. It will also be interesting to know why the interview was pulled from being shown in 2009. Was that Saville's influence?

Other accusations have come from Paul Gambaccini:

Speaking on ITV1's Daybreak programme this morning, Gambaccini said he had been waiting 30-years for the allegations to come out. He alleged that at one point Saville was about to be exposed by a tabloid newspaper, but quickly arranged an interview with a rival tabloid which had the effect of stopping the negative article. Gambaccini went on: "On another 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." (3)

Now that tells us a lot about how Saville reacted under pressure from threats, but it doesn't actually tell us if the "exposure" was accurate or not. Just because he met a threat of exposure with a threat about funding doesn't tell us that the accusations were true, so again we have to sift the history carefully.

Singer Coleen Nolan, who does not appear in the ITV programme, revealed four years ago that she was horrified when Savile intimately cuddled her in 1979 on Top Of The Pops when she was 14. She said: 'He was all over me. I could see my sisters glaring, "You touch her and we' ll kill you!" – and they would have done.' (4)

This is one that you can actually see on YouTube. And he certainly does seem to be holding the singer in a rather close and too intimate fashion. That doesn't again prove any allegations, but it builds a picture of a man who, in popular parlance, had a "pair of wandering hands".

Five women have branded Sir Jimmy Savile a sexual predator who allegedly raped and abused them when they were underage schoolgirls. The women, now in their fifties, claim Sir Jimmy was at the peak of his fame when he is said to have molested them in his Rolls-Royce, at a hospital, a school and the BBC Television centre  The woman who worked as Sir Jimmy's personal assistant for 40 years said yesterday she would be shocked if  the allegations were true. Janet Cope believes his accusers were star struck fantasists.

She said: 'Some of his female fans were attracted to him like bees to a honey pot.' Janet, now a 70-year-old widow, of Aylesbury, Bucks, added: 'I never had an inkling of him misbehaving or taking advantage of impressionable young girls. 'If there had been I would have seen it and tried to stop it. But if the documentary conclusively proves his guilt then I'd be really shocked.' (4)

This gives both sides - the accusers and those who defend Saville. As far as I understand, some of those accusing him have kept their identities secret, and to my mind, that's a powerful argument against them being a "star struck fantasist". Someone like that - and we've seen that kind of individual with real and imagined stories- sells their story to the newspapers for the largest amount of money they can make; anonymity is the last thing they want, and cash is high on the agenda. There seems to be no indication that any of those coming forward have any desire for monetary gain, or even personal publicity.

So why come forward now? It's a matter of closure, as much as anything else:

Mark Williams-Thomas, a former detective who presents the documentary, told ITV's Daybreak that the alleged victims had not come forward before because they "lived in fear for a very long time". He said: "We know that children don't disclose abuse straight away; sometimes that takes a long time, for many, many reasons - their whole life changes, the circumstances change... "And particularly talking out against Sir Jimmy Savile, who of course was a TV legend, (it is) very difficult to talk out about that, and they have been reassured of some confidence by talking now that he has died." (4)

Regarding other witnesses, there are not just those who were abused, but also those who saw it. This is solid evidence, and it gives the lie to Janet Cope's impression that the allegations are only coming from those abused.

The programme also interviews a number of Savile's former colleagues. One, former BBC production assistant Sue Thompson, told how she once walked into his dressing room while he was kissing and groping a girl. (5)

Williams-Thomas also notes that "I showed the evidence to a leading barrister, Ian Glen QC, who said that on the ­evidence he had seen it would amount to reasonable grounds for his arrest."

I'd agree with Esther Ranzten, that there is clear and sufficient evidence that Jimmy Saville did abuse children, and made use of his power within the BBC and media to ensure that no action was taken. The testimony of the women, especially because they keep their anonymity, suggest strongly that it is true. The eye-witness accounts of colleagues also cannot be dismissed summarily. And the testimony of those who heard rumours, but who also were frightened of losing their jobs if they enquired too deeply show a culture in which he could easily get away with this abuse. The accumulation of these different sources makes it almost certain that he was guilty as charged.

It is also interesting that in an interview he gave about the demise of "Jim'll Fix It", he alludes to a falling out with the BBC producers, of being out of fashion. Was this really because of a fear of publicity by the BBC if the truth came out? Were some people at the BBC trying to severe links and take action?


1 comment:

thejerseyway said...

Hi Tony.

Just put up two Interviews from today on Jersey Radio of Mark Williams-Thomas & Esther Rantzen.

You & your readers can Listen HERE