The slur-mongers – I refuse to dignify them with the term ‘moral entrepreneurs’ – who base their business model on peddling tit-bits of salacious gossip to the post-Leveson media are coming under increased scrutiny today following the universal disquiet regarding the prime-time entertainment we were offered of police officers arriving to search the home of a man who had not even been interviewed, nor ‘invited’ to open his home, to forensic officers ‘investigating’ allegations of the most heinous crime that a man could be accused of.
James Harding, the former Murdoch editor of The Times, now head of BBC news, has instructed his journalists to ‘get big stories and break them first’ – they are in direct competition with the ‘red-tops’ in his mind. The red-tops are in the business of getting ‘big gossip’ and breaking it first…
Think about that for a minute – within living memory, people literally bet their lives on the words of the BBC; in some parts of the world, they still do. The crackling voice of BBC announcers, dinner jackets de rigueur, was heard through a thousand crystal radios providing essential ‘fact’, solidly researched, soberly delivered (Reggie Bosanquet would never have presided over ten years of the BBC news) during the war years.
Yet now we have a situation where South Yorkshire Police felt ‘pressurised’ – the polite word for blackmail – into offering the BBC inside information into a high profile criminal investigation – in order to ‘bribe’ one of their journalists into not publishing a story they felt would jeopardise a child abuse investigation.
It is very telling that the journalist left out in the Sunningdale rain to report on this ‘important’ story before the red tops, was their ‘Media and Arts’ correspondent David Sillito (gratified to see he follows Anna Raccoon) whose previous scoops include ‘Co-oP supermarket to stop selling Nuts‘ and ‘What makes a beach hut worth £500,000‘ broadcast from his home town of Scarborough – base central for so much of the darker side of the Internet’s output on child abuse carried out by top Tory politicians/anyone connected to Maggie Thatcher/have they got a famous name?
Whoever is responsible for funnelling stories into a particular channel obviously saw this as a ‘celebrity’ story rather than a crime story – they rolled out the journalist who is normally stationed at the end of the red carpet to tell us of Victoria Beckham’s latest thrilling outfit.
That just about sums up everything that is wrong with Operation Yewtree – it is celebrity and media driven.
We don’t know whether David Sillito was the journalist first tipped off that Cliff Richard was being investigated, or whether it was just passed onto him by another BBC journalist as a ‘celebrity space filler’ to titivate the six o’ clock news. We are told that the alleged victim had for 23 years felt unable to face the inside of a police station to report the alleged offence until he was sprinkled with the Mark Williams-Thomas magic dust.
That was a year ago. A year earlier an unsuspecting Mark Williams-Thomas was cosying up to an unsuspecting Cliff Richard at Wimbledon. Hiding in plain sight in The Shadows eh?
Recording information as a crime to be investigated is the default position for the Police – ‘unless they hold credible evidence to the contrary’. Even when they ‘suspect’ it is nonsense, they have no choice in the matter, sans proof that it is nonsense. Blaming the Police for the current situation is a non-runner.
They must also keep the alleged ‘victim’ informed as to the progress of their investigation – appointing a liaison officer if necessary. There is nothing to stop the alleged ‘victim’ from keeping his band of supporters who first gave him ‘the courage to come forward’ informed either. Nor should there be – a genuine victim needs all the support he can get.
It can leave us with the situation where someone who sets up in business as a slur-monger peddling tit-bits to the media effectively has a hot line into the heart of criminal investigations into celebrities. It is the Max Clifford business model – but with legs on this time. Max relied on a conviction to get his story; now we have the enhanced version whereby if there is no conviction, even no arrest, you still get your celebrity story – this time dressed up as ‘police failed to act’.
That was the basis of the Meirion Jones ‘exclusive’ on his aunt’s old school, Duncroft. Mark Williams-Thomas was hired for £500 by the BBC as a ‘child protection expert’ and ‘ex-Surrey policeman’ to flesh out the truth of the ‘Savile wasn’t prosecuted for abusing those poor schoolgirls because he was too old and infirm’. He should have been the ideal person to have spotted that the letter Fiona Scott-Johnston was brandishing making this claim was a forgery carrying an out of date Surrey Police logo – but it took a Mail on Sunday reporter to know a dodgy Surrey Police logo when he saw one.
[The letter] says that Fiona was interviewed by police in 2006 despite the inquiry not beginning until May the following year.
The letter is also headed by a Surrey Police crest not in use at the time it was supposedly written. Significantly, there are no reference numbers included within the text.
A spokesman for Surrey Police said: ‘This letter is not genuine and was not sent by us at any time. The suggestion that we advised anyone this case would not be pursued due to the health of the individual concerned is wholly inaccurate.
Strange to remember that Peter Rippon felt ‘pressurised’, that polite word for blackmail again, into running that story – a pressure he stood up to – which resulted in Williams-Thomas taking the story to ITV.
Is this what the unholy trinity of Police, Media, and Celebrity has come to, post-Leveson? A support network for a new form of blackmail? We put forward an individual prepared to claim that a celebrity abused them – you either convict him or we publish a story that you failed to act? Either way, the slur mongers get their media fee.
All this is done under the emotive heading of ‘fighting child abuse’ – if you don’t agree with it, or stand up to it, you will be labelled a child abuser. Yet none of the main players are remotely interested in child abuse.
Two days ago, the specialist ‘Rainbow Centre’ at the Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool which deals exclusively in victims of child sexual abuse, put out some horrifying statistics. 125 children injured by sexual abuse in one year. In one town.
They are treating one child every three days for injuries sustained as a result of sexual abuse. In just one town.
You won’t read about it on the BBC web site – there are no expensively commissioned helicopters flying over Alder Hey. The Times isn’t running any stories about it. Nor the red-tops. Mark Williams-Thomas hasn’t even mentioned it. Meirion Jones isn’t Tweeting about it – nor is Newsnight, the former political news programme, demanding to make a programme about this scandal.
Not in their slur-mongering business model, see. No celebrities involved.
They may have gone too far this time. South Yorkshire Police have made a formal complaint to the Director-General of the BBC. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has accused the force of ‘collusion’ with the BBC. Human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC wrote a coruscating article branding the situation ‘unacceptable’.
The goodwill of the public has been exasperated by a charade which has succeeded in diverting funds from helping genuine child victims.
The slur-mongers have become the celebrities – I fear they won’t enjoy their time in the spotlight.