saville and cleveland

It was the culture of neglect that allowed Jimmy Savile to flourish

The torpor of those in authority – at the BBC and elsewhere – has left countless victims

Jimmy Savile was given the glory, the freedom and the immunity to do as he wished - It was the culture of neglect that allowed Savile to flourish

Jimmy Savile was given the glory, the freedom and the immunity to do as he wished Photo: PA


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Abuse, like charity, begins at home. The monster who ruins a child’s life is not, in many cases, a shadowy stranger but a friend, a father or an uncle. That roster of shame has been expanded to include an Auntie.

The BBC, with its quasi-familial role in British life, did not actively collude in the crimes of Sir Jimmy Savile. Nor, in all likelihood, did it engineer a cover-up of his predatory paedophilia. But sins of omission can be almost as reprehensible as those of commission, and the BBC appears guilty, at the least, of wilful ignorance. The corporation’s senior managers seem, like the three wise monkeys, to have chosen to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

Called before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee to explain the Savile debacle, the corporation’s director‑general yesterday gave a bloodless performance. George Entwistle outlined a culture of managerialism so suffocating that rival Somali warlords, if gathered round a water-cooler, might have a more collegiate dialogue than senior BBC staff.

Mr Entwistle’s corporation came across as an organisation devoted to omertà. In particular, his response to questions about how much he knew about the spiked Newsnight exposé of Savile suggested a fetish for protocol combined with the natural curiosity of a lentil.

It was left to a Conservative MP, Therese Coffey, to ask him about the “chilling words” of the programme’s now-sidelined editor, Peter Rippon, who complained in an email to the investigation’s producer that the sources were “just the women”. On Monday’s Panorama programme, one of those women, Karin Ward, finally got the chance to have her say, claiming that she watched as Gary Glitter had sex in Savile’s dressing room with a pupil from her approved school – a charge that Glitter denies.

If Mr Rippon preferred to deal with the failure of institutions such as the prosecuting authorities, rather than dabble in the messy wreckage of human lives, he cannot have been alone. Indeed, it is the heartlessness of a BBC whose senior management looks casual in the face of suffering that may cause it the most lasting damage. A public service body funded by the people and reliant on their trust must be what Ed Miliband might call a one‑nation broadcaster. And yet the impression left by Mr Entwistle was of a chilly elite far removed from the vulnerable children on whom its leading icon preyed.

At the heart of Savile’s story are two interlinked forms of violation – the abuse of children and the abuse of power. The victims were betrayed not only by the BBC hierarchy but also by the Surrey police, who failed to prosecute; by the DJ’s colleagues, who never spoke out; and by all those in awe of a star whose fame and bogus virtue shielded him from scrutiny until (no thanks to the BBC) his secrets emerged and the current wave of horror broke.

Parables of mass hysteria are nothing new. Long after Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, explored the force of evil in the community, the Salem bandwagon rolls on. In 1987, a supposed witch-hunt began in Cleveland, in the North East of England, where 121 children were removed from their homes, in the face of public fury, after two paediatricians diagnosed sexual abuse using a little-known and controversial diagnostic technique.

Folklore suggests, a quarter of a century on, that the Cleveland child abuse scandal was a saga of wronged parents and rogue doctors. That is too simplistic. As a young reporter, I sat in front rooms on a Middlesbrough estate and listened to adults’ stories of exculpation. I did not know then who was telling the truth and who was lying, and I do not know now. After a media firestorm and an inquiry costing £4 million, the case was laid to rest. In the meantime, some children were quietly removed permanently from their homes.

Subsequent legislation, including the Children Acts of 1989 and 2004, has failed to stem the tide of tragedy and scandal. In Rochdale and Rotherham, paedophile rings abused underage girls, unchecked by police or by officials. Fear of racism was said to be a factor in the failure to stop the perpetrators – who were of Pakistani origin – but the sexual abuse of children, from the church sacristy to the BBC dressing rooms allegedly stalked by Savile, knows no boundaries of race or class or creed.

There are, however, some common elements in the recent outbreaks – or epidemics – of sexual abuse. The torpor of those in authority and the failure of institutions, such as the police and the BBC, allow the vulnerable to be dominated by the mighty. So, in the eyes of some critics, does a permissive culture in which children are corrupted by the marketers of make-up, provocative clothing and celebrity magazines that thrive in an overly liberal society.

Yet while the liberal Left certainly has some past form on tainted ideas (anyone for eugenics?), it is facile to accuse it of the death of innocence. Childhood is shrinking, but not because of greater licence. In many ways, the opposite is true. In 1971, around 80 per cent of children went to school on their own. Two decades later, that figure had dropped to 9 per cent. Games consoles, televisions and the fear of hostile forces have conspired to make most – but not all – children more sheltered.

At the heart of the Savile case are the victims, selected for their vulnerability. Those who recoil in horror at his depravity might also spare a thought for youngsters who, in different circumstances, find themselves at the mercy of a British culture of neglect. A study published today by Inquest and the Prison Reform Trust concludes that six children who killed themselves in prison in recent years were systematically failed by the systems set up to keep them from harm.

In Britain, where human rights are regarded with suspicion, children’s rights are seen as an even less desirable subset. While victims of all ages attract sympathy and outrage when a terrible crime befalls them, abuse is still ignored or marginalised. The slowness to prosecute domestic violence and the woeful conviction rate for rape suggest that the attitudes of many in authority reflect the unwise words of one BBC executive. Who listens to “just the women”, or just the children?

Now, centre stage should belong not to the grey men of the BBC and other bastions of authority, but to those whose lives were ruined by Jimmy Savile, a rogue operator in an establishment that gave him the glory, the freedom and the immunity to do as he wished.

It seems implausible, on Mr Entwistle’s evidence, that the sclerotic BBC hierarchy told the editor of Newsnight to can his programme. Quite possibly, he was spooked into taking a wrong decision that will haunt the corporation. There was little in the director-general’s sanitised responses to suggest that he realised quite what a catastrophe has befallen a BBC that failed in its duty to a public entitled to see it as a beacon, in a tainted culture, of good practice and good faith. As Edmund Burke said, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. The Savile scandal is a reminder of the lethal inertia at the heart of public life.

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    The BBC and the labour movement were heavily infiltrated by the Paedophile Information Exchange (i.e. the Paedo photo swap shop) in the 1970s.
    Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt were both members of the NCCL when it was affiliated with PIE. The NCCL defended the rights of PIE to campaign within the law, and campaigned against porngraphic images of children being considered  abusive, unless it could be proved the child was harmed. Clearly this is nigh impossible if all the police have is the image and no child..

    Evidence can be found here in a DT article.…

    So given that Harman is deputy leader of Labour. And that both she and Hewitt were ministers in Blair’s government. And that  the very same Rt, Hon. Margaret Hodge (who was in charge of Islington Council when its council homes were ran essentially by paedophiles and alleged murderers of children) was made Children’s minister by Blair. And that Labour lowered the gay age of consent to 16. And that Jack Straw made it illegal for children in care to complain that they are being abused. And the general secrecy of the family courts, which can and do take children from their parents. I ask you:

    Is it any wonder Labour are keeping very quiet?

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      Tony Blair slapped a 100 year “D notice” on the report of the Dunblaine massacre, perpetrated by a known pedophile with links to the establishment. The children killed were said to have been abused by some in the Labor cabinet.

      Have a look at the Holly Grieg case. The whole establishment are linked by pedophilia. Vested interests have the dirt on anyone who gets into power, so they have no option but to follow instructions.

      Ted Heath often sailed his Yacht to Jersey, where Jimmy Savile was a frequent visitor at a children’s home in which the remains of an unknown number of children have been found. Of course, TH betrayed the country into what would become the EU.

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        It is alleged that Ted Heath was forced into Europe rather than being exposed, so to say.

        This is a pertinent question that must be answered, if only to clear the name of a British PM.

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           Joining the EEC (as it then was) was Tory and Labour Policy from Macmillan onwards. It was party orthodoxy and even Thatcher (and I think Tebbit)  campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum.

          Whatever you may think of Heath he certainly didn’t need to be  blackmailed into joining Europe

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             True. Heath was a natural traitor.  Macmillan was a Fabian as are Boy Osborne and Cameron. Traitors the lot.  Heath’s remains should be removed from Salisbury Cathedral; they pollute it.

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            Heath was certainly a quisling in taking us into the EEC on the basis of lies, however there is absolutely no evidence that he was a pedophile (or was blackmailed).  @DaveLDN you need to substantiate your allegations with evidence

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              Lets get started with “Ken Clarke accused of pedophilia by child actor”


              You will find many of the accusations on that channel (in the older news programs).

              Do have a look at the Holly Grieg case, and at the question of why a 100 year secrecy notice has been placed on the report for Dunblaine.

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         Someone needs to get serious about Jersey. There is a massive cover up going on there.

        The Holly Greig case to. Aberdeen is known for its oil industry but few people know of the web of corruption involving the local establishment. Police, Solicitors, Council officials – their all in it.The local press have never written a single word about it. Mind you their local evening paper is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. The Beano is more informative and grown up.

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