When I wrote my review of 2013 I said that “I may seek to tackle broader subjects – perhaps more thoughts and opinions on national as well as local news” in my blogs. I haven’t been doing too well at this so far, so I’m going to start here. And where better to start than something nicely non-controversial like sex abuse cases.
Last week seemed to be paedophile week on the news with celebrities being lined up to be accused of various sexual abuses over a large span of years. These include many names that we all grew up with like Rolf Harris, William Roache, Dave Lee Travis and Freddie Starr.
All of this makes me distinctly uneasy.
Don’t get me wrong, if these people are guilty of serious sexual abuse, especially against children, then I think they deserve everything they get. But what if they are not?
I amazes me that since the whole Jimmy Saville business, Operation Yewtree seems to have found sordid skeletons in the closet of just about everyone who was in the public eye in the 1970s. How did all of this just come about now?
Okay, everyone seems to suggest that these people were beyond reproach because of their celebrity status, but come on – could something this big really be swept under the carpet for so long? I fear that bandwagons are being jumped on at an alarming rate and it surely makes it difficult to sort out the facts from the opportunistic fiction.
And this brings me onto my second concern: given that most of these allegations happened a very long time ago, how can anyone prove their guilt or innocence after so long? Surely any evidence has long since disappeared, witness testimony must be questionable and it all boils down to one person’s word against another.
My next point is, perhaps, a little more controversial: “times were different then”. Now don’t all jump down my throat at once – as I said before, if they are guilty of serious sexual abuse then they deserve what they get. If, however, the allegations are more along the line of an inappropriate grope or slap then I’m not so sure.
Of course I am not suggesting that such behaviour is acceptable or appropriate, but back in the 1970s it was kind of the norm. Bigotry, chauvinism and sexism were all generally accepted behaviour – it was part of everyday life. I fear that in at least some of these allegations the thought process went something like “I didn’t think much of it then, but in retrospect that was inappropriate…”
Much like drinking and driving, it was the done thing. By today’s standards the behaviour is unacceptable, but it is not necessarily appropriate to judge the actions of the past by the morals of today.
The thing that makes me most uneasy about the whole thing, however, is that these celebrities are suffering trial by media. In English law a person is innocent until proven guilty – unless they are famous apparently, in which case they are plastered all over every newspaper and 24 hour rolling news station at the slightest whiff of an allegation.
Of course all of these formal media outlets are very careful to include the right mealy-mouthed, ass-covering “allegedly”s, but it is nothing short of a witch hunt. It is even worse on social media where no-one ever lets the facts get in the way of a good bit of righteous indignation.
And none of this is helped by the way the police handle the situation. They could just turn up at the celebrity’s house and ask them nicely to accompany them to the station, but no, they have to carry out apparently unnecessary dawn raids, or wait until they are somewhere public like an airport and swoop in to pick them up in a manner that causes maximum embarrassment and news coverage opportunity.
And when this happens mud sticks, no matter how spurious the charges. People always think “there’s no smoke without fire”. And lives and careers are wrecked. Look at the case of Michael Le Vell, better known as Coronation Street’s Kevin Webster: he was exonerated in full, but not until he had endured months of worry, probably abuse from all and sundry and he lost his job.
So, in short, if they are generally guilty, I hope that all of these celebrities get what they deserve, but let’s leave all of the hysterical baying for blood until we know if they are guilty.