An examination of what the Savile scandal has revealed about our society's ideas of justice and morality.
Please read these sample chapters, so you can decide for yourself if this is the sort of book you would be interested in reading:
Savile and the Loss of Innocence
Warning and Disclaimer : If, for whatever reason, you do not want to take the risk of being offended, then you may want to seriously consider not reading this book. If you do decide to read this book, you do so at your own risk. Furthermore, please note that this book is intended to explore issues and opinions rather than to state facts. Every statement in this book should be regarded, for legal purposes, as merely an opinion presented by the author.
This is a book all about the freedom and justice issues surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct made against the late Jimmy Savile.
For those readers not familiar with the situation, Jimmy Savile was a very famous UK personality - disc jockey, TV presenter and celebrity fund-raiser for many charities, especially children's charities. After his death, however, there were stories and claims about alleged sexual misconduct. These allegations grew and grew into a massive scandal. On his death, he was a national hero, celebrated for his charity work. Now, he is widely assumed to have been a monster, responsible for sexually molesting hundreds or even thousands of young people.
The allegations against Jimmy Savile were followed by an explosion of rumours, stories and investigations involving other celebrities who were alleged to have also committed sexual offences - usually historical offences dating back decades. The police ran (and are, at the time of writing, still running) a huge investigation known as Operation Yewtree, to track down, investigate, arrest and prosecute people who may have been involved in crimes connected to, or similar in nature to, the alleged crimes of Jimmy Savile.
There have also been a number of other arrests and prosecutions which, although not officially part of Operation Yewtree, are clearly related to and prompted by the furore over Jimmy Savile and the political desire to be seen to be tough on people accused of sex crimes.
The police have investigated and arrested many celebrities, including TV presenters, comedians, musicians and actors. Some have been charged and prosecuted in court and a few have actually been convicted.
The Savile scandal has appalled me, but not for the reasons it has appalled many others. I'm a philosopher and author. In many of my books, I write about freedom. I want to be part of a more thoughtful society that does more to value our important freedoms. The Jimmy Savile case, however, and the way our society has reacted to this case, highlight many of the difficulties that lie ahead and which need to be overcome if we are to achieve this aim. It seems that there is, unfortunately, a glaring gap between our finest traditions of fairness and justice and the attitudes commonplace in our modern society.
This book looks at how our justice system, our media and our society in general have reacted to the Savile scandal, with particular reference to the prosecutions that have been pursued in the wake of the Savile scandal. It examines the failings of our justice system and highlights some of the popular and hysterical prejudices, reflected by our media, that have been allowed to interfere with and infect our justice system.
It really is important that we have a good, hard look at the direction our society has taken. Are the Yewtree-related prosecutions genuine attempts at justice - or are they largely bogus and politically-motivated prosecutions prompted by an hysterical reaction to unproven allegations against a dead celebrity? And just how many of the principles of good justice are we prepared to compromise or abandon in order to satisfy our society's media-stoked thirst for retribution? Whether or not we can agree on the answers, it should be clear that these are very necessary and important questions to ask and consider.
Many Yewtree cases have highlighted the fact that we have a worryingly skewed system when it comes to the granting of anonymity to people involved in sexual assault investigations and court cases. Accusers are granted anonymity, whilst defendants are not.
Even when a suspect is not yet officially named by police, it seems that information about them is fairly routinely leaked to the press. And when the police do a search of someone's house or office, the press and other media often seem to have been tipped off about it in advance.
We can see why there is a temptation to grant anonymity to alleged victims in sexual abuse cases. There is sometimes a stigma involved in being the victim of sexual abuse, especially when the abuse was particularly depraved. Victims sometimes feel embarrassed and ashamed to have been involved in such abuse, even if they were not personally to blame in any way over what happened. This sense of embarrassment or shame might discourage them from coming forward, especially if they are not able to remain anonymous.
Firstly, we ought to ask whether the granting of anonymity to alleged victims of sexual abuse does more harm than good, in that it helps perpetuate the belief that there is something to be ashamed of in being a victim of a sexual assault. Perhaps there wouldn't be so much of a stigma if we behaved as if there shouldn't be one.
Furthermore, the stigma of an accusation of sexual abuse works both ways - and unequally so. If there is a stigma to being a victim of a sexual assault or sexual abuse, this is comparatively small compared to the stigma of being accused of a sex crime. This applies, not just if you are convicted, but merely upon being accused and even if you are subsequently acquitted or even exonerated by the courts or through further investigation. The stain upon your character will never be erased completely.
So, why don't we grant anonymity to defendants as well as to their alleged victims? The main justification given for this one-sided granting of anonymity is that, by publicising the name of the defendant, this might encourage other people to come forward who allege that they were also assaulted by the defendant. This, it is argued, might provide additional evidence for the prosecution and enable a 'successful' prosecution against someone who might otherwise have got away with some or all of their crimes.
By the same argument however, publicising the names of accusers might also encourage additional evidence to be brought forward. For example, someone might come forward to say that one of the accusers had lied or made false allegations in the past - thus, quite reasonably, casting doubt on how reliable and trustworthy their evidence might be.
It seems totally obscene that we should encourage new witnesses to come forward for the prosecution, but not to do the same for people who could provide evidence for the defence. Our system of lopsidedly granting anonymity only to prosecution witnesses seems to be in clear contradiction to basic principles of fairness and justice.
In more general terms, it is an accepted principle of justice that court proceedings should take place in public, where they can be scrutinised for fairness. The principle is not merely that the case is heard in a court open to the public and the press. The principle is that the details of the case are made public, so that every piece of evidence, all procedures and every decision can be scrutinised by anyone who wishes to check that the principles of justice are being adhered to and that people are only being convicted of crimes if there is proof beyond reasonable doubt. Keeping secrets compromises the public nature of the trial process and thus compromises our prospects of upholding decent standards in our justice system and avoiding miscarriages of justice.
More specifically, if the identity of witnesses is kept secret from the public, this makes it more difficult for their motivations and evidence to be properly held up to scrutiny. Without knowing the identity of a witness, we cannot be sure that their trustworthiness has been properly investigated. Their evidence will therefore be suspect. We cannot then be properly confident that the state is only convicting people against whom there is overwhelming proof of guilt.
If someone seeks to make an accusation that could see someone sent to prison for many years, then they ought to be subjected to intense scrutiny as to their motivations, their integrity, their trustworthiness and their reliability as a witness. Granting them anonymity limits what can be done to collect relevant evidence and scrutinise these things. It thus runs clear counter to the basic principles of justice.
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