06 October, 2012

A breach of trust

The strange case of Jimmy Savile continues to rumble on in Britain. I say strange, because for many people the former disc jockey was a minor saint, having raised millions of pounds for charity and, in particular, sick children. The strange thing about it is this: if you heard that Mother Theresa was a mass murderer or that Princess Diana had quietly participated in some ghastly slaughter in Bosnia, you would be shocked. There would be public outrage, a brutal, mass mea culpa and reanalysis of the nation's previous feelings. But the tales emerging of Savile being a paedophile don't seem to have surprised anyone.

Quite a lot of women now claim to have been brutalised by Savile, and there are stories of a fifteen year old fatally overdosing. We cannot blame them for being scared to come forward against such a public figure, or not wanting to relive their experiences. Yet colleagues of Savile suggest it was common knowledge that this National Treasure was up to this sort of thing.

Everyone has both a legal and a moral duty to report a crime. Child molestation, rape, paedophilia, call it what you will, represents a particularly evil crime on the moral scale because it is a breach of trust. A child is entitled to trust an adult to know what is best for it and what is right and wrong, and the avuncular Savile, star of Jim'll fix it, which made children's dreams come true, was in a particular position of trust, making it all the worse.

Yet Paul Gambaccini, another ageing sixties DJ, even explains how Savile dissuaded the press from covering the rumours. It seems he knew all about it; in the circles in which he moved it was dinner party gossip. Liz Kershaw, another DJ, says Savile's activities were 'an open secret'.

Some are saying that this is parallel to the cases of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church: strong positions of trust and the matter swept under the carpet because of its importance. I would also cite the case of Roman Polanski, who admitted anally raping an underage girl but was protected by the French government and now is back travelling the world and receiving adulation as a film director. He was too important, you see, to be convicted of something so grubby.

I very much hope the police investigation into this will cover not just Savile's vile activities, but the protection afforded to him by his colleagues at the BBC and elsewhere.

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