Does that guy look like a pervert to you? A dirty old man? He was.
That’s the late Sir Jimmy Savile, a British TV entertainer and BBC star whose main program featured him making the dreams of children come true. He also involved himself in children’s charity work, and received for his labors not only a knighthood from the Queen, but also a papal knighthood. Yet since his death, it has emerged that he used his celebrity and his reputation for kindness and generosity to children to molest underage girls.
I have asked tabloid friends what happened. Well, it mostly took place in the pre-internet age, so paedophiles couldn’t make contact (and be caught) online. Uncle Jimmy, cunning chap, never had a computer, we’re told. Such complaints as there were came from isolated young people to different forms of authority – the police, school, newspapers, the BBC – which couldn’t know what the others knew. “That assists rumour, but doesn’t put together a solid case,” one veteran journalist reminds me.
Savile himself, like many such predators, was very crafty. The girls were often from damaged backgrounds and usually vulnerable as teenagers are. They weren’t believed, just as those kids abused by sex rings today were often not believed or written off as willing volunteers – not least by the police.
Why not set up Savile with a tough female reporter as bait? Can you imagine how the defence lawyers would play that case – criminal or libel – when a well-loved public figure, hero of many a charity, was in the dock, ask my tabloid friends?
“I was set up by a wicked journalist,” would be the cry. Such cases happen, the accused realises it’s a sting and win.
White also wonders why on earth Savile was granted knighthoods from both the British Crown and the Pope:
Doesn’t the honours scrutiny committee and assorted lesser committees do any discreet vetting of the private character of recipients? Doesn’t the pope have a bloke who watches out for his reputation?