Following last night’s episode of ‘Exposure’, the prosecution’s case for the demonisation of Jimmy Savile was completed in the sense that the audience have been invited to give their verdict. No doubt if we fail to give the required verdict, the ‘Ireland v EU’ solution will be applied and we will be given a further installment to wet our appetite for the correct answer. There has been no case for the defence, so all we can do is look at the evidence laid out for us by the televisual prosecutors and see what it amounts to.
The programme opened with the powerful statement ‘We now know that Jimmy Savile was a predatory paedophile for more than 40 years’.
Not so fast Mr Williams-Thomas! We know that there have been possibly hundreds of allegations that he was – but for those of us looking for facts as opposed to innuendo, we are sitting down waiting for you to make the case to us that he was…
We continued with a brief re-run of Williams-Thomas’ previous ‘witnesses’ – the Duncroft girls. First off, Charlotte, the girl who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by Savile in a caravan and subsequently disbelieved by staff when she became hysterical at this trauma, and ‘thrown into the isolation unit as punishment’. Whether or not Charlotte was sexually assaulted in the caravan by Savile, only Charlotte and Savile know the truth. We can but examine the available evidence as to which of them is likely to be telling the truth. So I look at the claim that Charlotte was ‘thrown into the ICU unit’ as a result of her claim that she complained of sexual abuse. I am aware of Charlotte’s full identity, and of the record of the one and only time she was ever put in the isolation unit, and the reason for her being there. That record will be made available to the police or formal inquiry. Charlotte of course, is fully able to apply for her own records from Barnardos and prove to the world that she was in the ICU unit for whatever reason at any time near to or even in the vicinity of Savile’s known presence at Duncroft. Thus I am confidently claiming that ‘Charlotte’ is lying on the specific question of whether she informed staff of this alleged abuse and whether she was punished for any event (I am charitably allowing for further allegations that the records might be claimed to have been falsified in respect of the reason for punishment) that could conceivably be linked to any visit to Duncroft by Savile. I do not lightly lay myself open to allegations of defamation, I do so confient that I can defend my words.
Then we heard again the clip of ‘Fiona’, the ‘Fiona’ who produced a forged letter allegedly from Surrey police saying that the 2007 Surrey police investigation was prematurely concluded because Savile ‘was old and frail’. A piece of evidence that I charitably assume she failed to show Williams-Thomas, for even had he never discussed the Savile case with his old colleagues on the Surrey force where he was based for 12 years – he would surely have picked up on the fact that the letter heading was false, as Surrey police did once they were shown a photocopy of it.
Despite the many clues available on the Internet that I would have expected any investigator to pick up on regarding ’Fiona’s’ manipulative nature and propensity for outright lies, Williams-Thomas was prepared to run with a clip of Fiona claiming that she had performed a sexual act on Savile whilst under the age of 16. That is, legally and morally, child abuse. Whatever your views on ‘willing girls’ aged 14, I do not ignore the fact that in law, if the allegation was accepted by a jury, Savile would certainly have been convicted of child abuse on this count alone. However, given that Savile is not able to defend himself, I would expect, in the name of balanced reporting, that Williams-Thomas would have inserted into the piece at this stage something he alluded to at a later date – that all 20 girls who were at Duncroft during this specific period were interviewed by police during the 2007 investigation – and not one of them gave any evidence which gave credence to Fiona’s claim. Not one of the ‘other girls’ who was outside the car according to Fiona whilst she was performing this act, not one of the other girls sharing her dormitory?
We can say, truthfully, that child abuse victims are afraid to ‘come forward’, but these girls would not have been coming forward – Surrey police had gone to the trouble of tracing all 20 of them, 40 years after the event, no mean feat in itself, and invited them to assist with their inquiries. Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions has made a statement on this specific allegation:
“Whilst it is sometimes possible to prosecute cases where the victim does not support a prosecution, there are obvious problems in proceeding with a case where the victim does not support a police investigation, where there is no forensic evidence and only very limited, or even in some instances no, witness evidence, particularly in relation to allegations which date back a number of years. […]
The first allegation against Savile was from a woman who reported to Surrey Police in 2007 that she had witnessed a historic indecent assault on a girl aged under 16 at Duncroft in the late 1970s.
Surrey Police said: “Officers carried out enquiries to locate the victim who did not wish to support a criminal prosecution.”
The CPS said the file then submitted by the force in 2009 included evidence of “three further potential offences” by Savile, who was interviewed under caution by officers.
These were an alleged indecent assault on a girl under 16 at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in or around 1973; the alleged incitement of a girl under 16 to engage in a sexual act at Duncroft in the late 1970s; and an alleged indecent assault on an adult in Sussex in 1970.
“However, the evidence showed that none of the alleged victims would support a prosecution,” the CPS added.
“In these circumstances the CPS concluded that it was not possible to bring a prosecution in this matter.
“Prosecutors have to satisfy themselves that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction in order to be able to take a case to court, and it was concluded that no further action could be taken in this case.”
So we can whittle down William-Thomas’s ‘five Duncroft victims’, who had been let down by Surrey police when they made their claims….Five victims who incidentally, only the sharp eyed would have noticed in the original programme, included ‘Rochelle’, a girl who was never at Duncroft as a resident, but is the daughter of a former resident; an inconvenient fact that was not explained in the programme, to:
One girl who alleged she had witnessed a sexual assault on a victim at Duncroft who declined to support the allegation to the police.
One allegation of ‘an incitement to engage in a sexual act with a child’.
Two other allegations of assault that were nothing to do with Duncroft.
Quite what the police were supposed to do with these historic allegations given that none of the victims were prepared to support the allegations, there was of course no forensic evidence to support them, and ‘very limited’ witness support I do not know. That they were prepared to trace and interview the 20 other girls present at the time, 40 years later, and interview Savile under caution is to their credit. Mr Williams-Thomas appears very taken with the idea that on the basis of what must have been many hours of what proved to be fruitless police work they should then have gone on to interview the elderly and retired staff at the time, so much so that he has repeatedly telephoned the 91 year old headmistress of the school, recording her endlessly polite statements that she did not wish to appear on his programme nor make any comment, and gleefully including this recording in his programme. To what end? Has the idea of trial by television taken such hold that he expected her to produce the confidential records of the named girls and display them for public entertainment? He has another ‘think’ coming. The records are in safe hands and will be produced for the benefit of the real police, not the media police.
We then moved onto perhaps William-Thomas’s most impressive witness. ‘Denise’, not an old Duncroft girl, but, in the 1960s, the 10 year old daughter of ‘family friend’ Uncle Jimmy, who credibly described a scenario all too many people will have recognised; the pervy ‘Uncle’ with the roving hands who she says sexually assaulted her. Had Denise been aware of the law at 10 years old, she would have recognised that this was an offence for which Savile could, if proven, been convicted, and the poor woman is now beating herself up for not having spoken up at the time and potentially have stopped him in his tracks. Any fault or blame here, lies not with the authorities, not even with the BBC – but fairly and squarely with parents. The law has always protected 10 year old girls from sexual abuse, both major and minor – no change in the law will take the place of parents educating their children in the matter of appropriate physical boundaries; nor will any number of weeping Ester Rantzen’s and their telephone lines take the place of parents imbuing their children with the love and trust that would allow them to discuss such matters with the family members who would surely have delivered a hefty punch on the nose or elsewhere to any ‘family friend’ who behaved in such a manner. I’m not normally one to suggest side stepping the law, but on these specific types of allegations, I would wholeheartedly support direct family action rather than hauling a 10 year old child through the unpleasant process of adversarial law in order to ‘punish’ the perpetrator.
Next up was William-Thomas’s potentially most valuable witness. Janet Cope, who had ‘been by Savile’s side for 30 years as his personal assistant and secretary’. Surely now we would hear some real evidence? Sadly not – even though Ms Cope belatedly informed the world that she had been most discourteously sacked by Savile for reasons undisclosed, even she was not minded to admit to any knowledge whatsoever, or even suspicion, that Savile was this ‘known predatory paedophile’. She would, she said, have challenged him had she ever had reason to suspect this of him. She stated that he was ‘controlling and manipulative’ – just the sort of attributes I would expect of someone who had pushed himself from obscurity to world wide fame. Quite how Ms Cope was supposed to be making the case for the prosecution of Savile as paedophile defeats me, but she was able to add colour to the programme by showing photographs of Savile with various other celebrities, and thus linking his name to everyone from the Queen, to the Pope to Princess Diana. Scarcely surprising for a serious fund raiser and celebrity in his own right. This presumably and charitably, was supposed to make the case of people being ‘too scared’ of Savile to challenge him with allegations of sexual abuse – but where were the allegations? The result of these hundreds of phone calls from scared victims too frightened to come forward before? Nobody has ever doubted that Savile was incredibly important to Stoke Mandeville hospital, he raised millions of pounds for them, but they themselves or rather Buckinghamshire Health Trust, have denied that any rumours or allegations ever came to their attention, so what is William-Thomas saying here? That one girl of indeterminate age claims that Savile ‘stuck his tongue down her throat’ at a concert in 1973? Possibly he did, and if so it would have been at a minimum (given the indeterminate age) sexual harassment – but where was the claim that Buckinghamshire Health Trust are in anyway responsible for the fact that she failed to tell anyone?
Finally we were onto Broadmoor, where incredibly, after 20 years as an unpaid prison visitor, and a major figure in the entertainment world, Savile was appointed ‘Honorary assistant entertainment officer’. Frankly I’d have been more gobsmacked if he hadn’t been, with that track record. I doubt that the corridors of Broadmoor are thronged with worthy citizens who wish to give their time putting on entertainment for some of the most dangerous people in the British Isles. Why only ‘assistant‘ – who was it that was better qualified? We weren’t told. But giving up his time as a volunteer, we were told by no less figure than Edwina Currie, was evidence that he had both access, and opportunity for abuse. Indeed, and that applies to each and every person who does volunteer for unpaid work in such places – is it evidence that they are all paedophiles?
We were shown ’Kate’, a resident of Broadmoor, who claimed that Savile, an honorary member of staff, came into the bathroom whilst she was naked in the bath and ‘joked with other male members of staff”. I don’t think anyone would dispute that the multiple bathing arrangements common in mental hospitals at that time, which involved male and female patients being naked together and attended by male and female members of staff was wholly inappropriate. It is something I have attested to myself. I don’t find the fact that an ‘honorary member of staff’ was given this access any more or less despicable than the fact that it was common for male members of staff to have such access to naked females residents. I condemn it, but I cannot include it as proof that Williams-Thomas has proven his case regarding paedophilia.
Kate’s later testimony that Savile ‘put his arm round her and touched her breast’ and later tried to put his hand between her legs, may well be true. How can we know? It is an allegation. She says as a result of this allegation ‘she was put in solitary confinement for several months‘. Even in the allegedly lawless atmosphere of a 1970s mental hospital, and incidentally Duncroft, there are very strict rules regarding solitary confinement. It has to be a matter of record, for it is one of the first things that prison visitors and Home Officer inspectors check on. We can argue that the log book records could be falsified to give a spurious reason for such solitary confinement, but I cannot accept that the dozens of staff who would have been on duty during those months, day and night, would all have been prepared to risk their jobs and pensions and accept someone being in solitary confinement and that not being noted in the record books. Ipso, Broadmoor, like Duncroft, will have an official record of this confinement. Something else to be produced to the police, methinks? The real police.
Much was made of the fact that Savile had a set of keys to Broadmoor. We are invited to deduce that he had free run of the entire hospital, but were told that he specifically didn’t have a set of keys to the bedrooms, only to the communal areas where there were staff on duty. I am not in the slightest surprised. My own experience of visiting such establishments, of which I have seen more than my fair share as a Visitor, is that the staff are extremely concerned to make sure that you do not manage to wander to any area that is not monitored by the staff for your own safety. I’ve certainly never been offered a set of keys to wander between staffed communal areas, but then I’ve never been appointed an honorary assistant entertainment officer either – merely an occasional visitor. There would undoubtedly be a dearth of individuals volunteering to become a prison visitor if Savile or anyone else had been allowed unsupervised access to some exceedingly dangerous people who would cheerfully – and have done – chop you into small pieces! Not even the regular staff do that, never mind honorary staff or visitors. He came and went through the staff entrance. So what?
There was considerable time devoted to the allegations that Savile was invited to ‘head’ the task force put in place when the hospital was in crisis. Ms Cope, his personal assistant told us that Savile ‘believed himself to be ‘top dog’. The Broadmoor authorities have denied this. Edwina Currie says his role ‘was never defined’. What are we left with? That Savile believed himself to be in charge? He may well have done so, that doesn’t make it fact that ‘he was in charge of the task force’ as has been claimed. To me, that leaves me with the impression that here was a man with 20 years experience who was invited to join the task force committee – and why not. He had a point of view. Part of that point of view Ms Currie tells us, was that he believed that staff had been fiddling overtime, that some had allocated accommodation to family members etc. This was portrayed as evidence that he ‘could’ have blackmailed staff into ignoring his abuse of vulnerable victims. Yes, OK, he could have done – even Ms Currie didn’t go so far as to claim that she knew whether he had ever done so. It ‘could’ also be evidence that here was an outsider who was prepared to tell the authorities the truth about some of the goings on in a hospital in crisis. It depends whether you watched this programme having already made your mind up that Savile was a predatory paedophiliac or whether you had an open mind waiting to hear the evidence…
Last night Roy Rowden, a former senior NHS executive supervising Britain’s three high security prisons proclaimed himself ‘shocked’ at the access Savile was given to inmates. Remembering that Savile was a prison visitor long before he became an ‘honorary assistant entertainment officer’, perhaps Rowden would care to enlarge on his views as to how exactly prison visitors are supposed to act as a watchdog to ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained if they don’t have access in supervised areas to inmates?
Every prison and immigration removal centre has an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), formerly known as a Board of Visitors. Members of the IMB, who are volunteers, are appointed by the Home Secretary and act as ‘watchdogs’ for both the Minister of Prisons and the general public, to ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained.
Now onto the matter of Alan Franey, who was invited to join first the task force, then applied for – and got in open competition – the job of General Manager of Broadmoor and later Chief Executive. Alan Franey was previously head of Leeds Infirmary, whence he knew Jimmy Savile, a long time voluntary porter there. It was portrayed as somehow sinister that Savile should suggest a man who had successfully headed up a major hospital trust to join the task force trying to sort out the problems in a hospital – on the grounds that this hospital was high security and covered mental health. Now if you are trying to prove that Savile was a man with sinister intentions, you can make something of him suggesting that the Department of Health assess his old friend Alan Franey to take up this position – however, if you have an open mind, you might querulously wonder what William-Thomas’s point here was? Does he believe that Savile shouldn’t have made any suggestions even though on the task force as an undoubtedly interested party? Should only have made suggestions that involved people he had no connection with and thus couldn’t possibly recommend? The civil servants in the Department of Health certainly did assess Alan Franey and considered him quite up to the job of managing a hospital. So what are we suggesting here? That the civil servants were so blinded by Savile’s celebrity that they gave Franey the job for no reason? Should they have ignored the fact that he had already proved himself competent to manage a major hospital? Should they have disbarred him on the grounds that he was friends with someone on the task force? I’m left looking at a mass of innuendo and totally unsure of what I should be deducing from it.
Finally, we had the ‘grilling’ of Sir Roger Jones. Roger Jones was discussing in his office possible contributors to a forthcoming ‘Children in Need’ programme. Savile’s name was mentioned, and ‘several of his staff showed by their body language that they were uncomfortable with this suggestion’. Why were they uncomfortable? Roger didn’t know, since none of them actually voiced any complaints, allegations or offered any explanation for their ‘uncomfortable body language’. That didn’t save Roger from trial by innuendo – shouldn’t he have immediately run round the BBC building warning all and sundry that Savile was a predatory paedophiliac? Hmmn, so the next time someone suggests the geriatric Cliff Richards for the ‘Christmas Special’ and the staff all roll their eyes and look at the floor, the producer should immediately go round the BBC denouncing him as a predatory paedophile? Welcome to the biggest defamation claim the BBC has ever had to defend, if so!
I watched last night with an open mind, quite prepared to believe that Savile was a dangerous paedophile that various authorities should have suspected and thus protected children against. Williams-Thomas has had publicity that others could only dream of, ‘hundreds’ of victims coming forward in the wake of his previous programme, hours of television time to develops his theory, and last night was the final result. Along with the rest of the general public, I am invited to draw my own conclusions. The case for the prosecution rests.
Er, that was it? Really? Where’s the Beef?
Updated to add:
‘Those who watched this programme will recall MWT citing an apparently independent witness, a member of a girls choir who claimed that Savile walked up to her at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and ‘stuck his tongue down her throat without warning’.
Overnight I have been contacted by someone who is aware of the Girls Choir to which she belonged, and also aware that the girl’s sister was at Duncroft…as were the group of original ‘complainants’.
Would anybody care to calculate the odds for me on Savile managing to walk into a crowded venue and ‘hitting on’ what could be the one and only person there with a connection to Duncroft and the original group of Duncroft girls?