Tuesday 8 October 2013

BBC - looking the wrong way yet again

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On Sunday 6th October  I went along to the BBC studios in Salford to take part in a BBC Radio 5 Live programme http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/5live/5linvestigates/5linvestigates_20131006-1500a.mp3 discussing the rise in the number of allegations of historical sexual abuse post-Savile. Or the “post-Savile spike” as it was rather gruesomely described.

There was a great story to be told here, or so I thought. A story of police and prosecutors, of charities and charlatans (aka personal injury lawyers) whose individual and collective moral blindness has contributed to the greatest series of miscarriages of justice in the history of the criminal justice system in this country; where hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent men have been sent to prison for vile crimes which they have not committed (for more on this see the works of the late, great Richard Webster  http://www.richardwebster.net).

But, as is customary these days, the BBC fluffed its lines. It failed completely to get to grips with the real story behind the epidemic of historical abuse allegations and instead of giving listeners a Sunday morning treat it dished up the thinnest of gruels: a dismal pot pourri of pre-recorded propaganda from the usual suspects; the nice policeman saying how terribly difficult it is to investigate and prosecute theses cases (nonsense, there is no investigation required and they are a piece of cake to prosecute); the nice man from the NSPCC bleating on about the usual stuff they bleat on about (I cannot recall a word he said); and the anonymous “victim” who had the great misfortune to be abused by two choirmasters, had then gone on to join the police and had managed to unburden himself only after a course of therapy (no comment necessary).

And then there was me, an afterthought, no doubt drafted in to maintain the BBC’s love of “balance”; given a minute’s airtime to state my case only to be told by presenter AdrianGoldberg that I am  in it for the money before being ushered out of the studio by the gofer. I now know how Nigel Farage must feel, the poor chap.

Had I been extended the courtesy of five minutes on the subject here’s what I would have said.

The increase in historical allegations post-Savile has very little, if anything, to do with brave “victims” summoning up the courage to report their abusers. Rather it has everything to do with complainants making false allegations (for whatever reason, but money often comes into it) safe in the belief that their stories will not be subjected to the slightest scrutiny by the police and the prosecuting authorities. For these complainants (and more especially their money-grubbing lawyers) have picked up clear signals that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are on their side and that their allegations will be gratefully received and unquestioningly believed.

Nowhere is this signal stronger than in the Metropolitan Police’s infantile report on the Savile affair itself (Giving Victims a Voice). In its breathtaking disregard for both logic and common sense the report, co-authored by the NSPCC, assumes that because the allegations against Savile were made, the offences were committed. And it goes on to solemnly declare that 214 incidents of abuse have been “formally recorded” as crimes. Nowhere in the report is there mentioned the possibility that a single one of these allegations might be false. This is not so much a retreat from scepticism as a dereliction of duty.

Yet no one at the BBC or in the mainstream press (with the notable exception of Charles Moore at the Daily Telegraph) has dared to question the report’s methods or conclusions.  Rather the BBC has responded by setting up its own expensive internal investigation, which has rubber-stamped the Met’s findings, and has devised its own scheme for compensating victims (seven grades of compo available if you’re interested); and all of this paid for by the licence fee, naturally.

We now live in a country in which, like the old Soviet Union, an unsupported allegation is enough to send a man to prison; where we rejoice in the hounding and prosecution of old men (and this is for the most part about men) for uncorroborated offences that, in some instances, are alleged to have taken place before the introduction of decimal coinage, before they put a man on the moon, before England won the World Cup, before the Beatles. That we have allowed this moral panic to so consume us is a national disgrace for which we should all hang our heads in shame. And yes, it is the handiwork of the police, the lawyers and the Courts, all of whom have the blood of the innocent on their hands.  But the journalists must also take their share of the responsibility: for theirs is the sin of omission.  And that applies particularly to the journalists at the BBC who, although best placed to get to the truth at the heart of the Savile affair, have, as Sunday’s lamentable effort so amply demonstrates, insisted on looking the other way and in so doing have helped to send others to a living hell.

Chris Saltrese
8 October 2013
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  1. And all the while good chaps like yourself line your pockets.

  2. You may be interested to see how the old DJ Mike Smith described his experience of the new "balanced BBC".


    Monday 8th October was, shall we say, interesting.
    News of my last blog had got to 5 Live. They were on the phone first thing. Believe me, I haven't made a habit of leaving my number with news organisations, but they all seem to have it when they need it. It's quite spooky.

    Would you be interviewed by Richard Bacon just after 2pm? About your blog comments?

    Not a problem. And that was it, until just before 2 when they called and set the whole thing in technical motion. No researcher asking me for further details. No idea of length of interview. Nothing.

    Suddenly : On Air.

    Immediately my suspicions were raised as Richard introduced Jackie Brambles as a co-interviewee. Nice move - get the female point of view. Shame they didn't tell me in advance - I never worked with Jackie and we occupied different era at Radio 1. Would have been nice to do some research.
    The interview started and it had all the feeling of a pre-arranged agenda. Which would be fine if the participants had received the same briefing. We hadn't. Jackie somewhat ruined their plot by agreeing with me.
    From the tone of Richard's questioning, the rush to get everything in and his repeated questions "Are you calling Liz Kershaw a liar?" I knew instantly that I had been trapped. This was not about my blog. But I could hardly do a Gary Barlow and stomp off when such delicate issues are being discussed.

    I stuck with it and tried in vain to get my points over. In one exchange Richard asked me "When isn't it a crime?" To which I replied that when it's between consenting adults and it may have been misconstrued as joshing around. That got me attacked on Twitter. Not by people who had listened to the whole interview - but by people who believed a tweet saying that I had disregarded Liz Kershaw's complaint as mucking around.

    People hear what they want to hear. I'm male, I was a Radio 1 DJ - so I must be part of the problem. The best comment I've seen is the one on my original blog from Joss Sanglier - neatly sums up his experiences and makes good points.

    So - 5 Live.
    I agreed to go back on later. They called and said they had had some text reactions to my comments. Would I come back on? Sure.

    So at 3.56pm began a rushed session lasting less than 5 minutes. In that I was confronted not by texts, but by a woman on the phone. Again, no warning. No briefing. All over in a flash.
    Then the trouble started.

    A Mail journalist, who must spend all day listening to 5 Live for free stories, tweeted his mate - another Mail journalist. Neatly tucked in his 140 character allowance, he found space to call me a "prick". Somehow these tweets must have got picked up by a Telegraph writer who published what can only be described, at best, as a precis of what was actually broadcast. This was plastered with a headline claiming that I'd said the Savile "witch hunt" must be stopped.
    I was actually referring not to the apparent crimes of someone who should never have been knighted, but to the wider accusations raised by Liz Kershaw last weekend. Which is what my blog was about - and which is why 5 Live had me on the radio.
    A little bit of detective work using social media and I quickly established that Susanna Reid of BBC Breakfast had retweeted Richard Bacon's tweet which linked to the Telegraph story.
    I may never get to the full facts behind all of this. But it is plain that when it comes to reporting stories, some people are really happy to publish without checking sources.

  3. "Darren Laverty8 October 2013 03:26
    And all the while good chaps like yourself line your pockets."

    That is an odd comment as everyone in this great escapade is "lining their pockets" from police who accept wages to charities who receive tens of millions of pounds in donations which seem to be mainly used to produce ad campaigns requesting even more donations.

    But to accuse a defense lawyer of 'lining their pockets'- when every citizen is entitled to a defense and as pointed out so many times the burden of proof has shifted to proving innocence rather than the traditional way of law, is extremely mealy mouthed especially when legal aid is being slashed.

    To carry your claim to it's logical conclusion : the law clerks and court workers, judges and even the bus or taxi driver who deliver all to courts are 'lining their pockets'.

    This claim yet again demonstrates the extraordinary uphill battle now faced by anyone accused of a crime- the wave of unsympathetic thinking that accepts at face value the dangerous sweeping claims now presented as "news" by a , at times cowered and vacuous media.

  4. I would like to demonstrate how extremely difficult it is to defend a false allegation of sexual abuse. My son was falsely accused in early 2012 and was charged nearly 11 months later on no evidence only the word of a very vindictive and jealous family. A new ruling came into effect on the 1st October 2012 whereby any person employing their own defense team was not entitled to claim back the money that they had spent following acquittal. This is yet another stumbling block when fighting an allegation that is based on one word against another with the defendant feeling they are fighting for their lives as well as loosing their life savings in order to do get a proper defense team especially a specialist whose expertise is paramount in these types of allegations.

    The hours and hours and hours of input, dedication and uphill battles that are fought on the behalf of the innocent person by Chris Saltrese Solicitors is nothing short of outstanding. My son i knew from the very first moment of employing Chris Saltrese was in very safe hands and without a shadow of doubt would fight until the end for his young client.

    The police do not investigate these types of allegations, they do not conduct an impartial investigation whereby any evidence which is produced during the course of the investigation is looked on whether it leads towards a conviction or away it is in fact twisted and hidden in order to produce a charge and gain a conviction. It is these people who we hold in authority that are meant to keep us law obi ding citizens safe are responsible for the mass hysteria that we have today. These are the very people who should be taken to task for the wrongdoings that they are inflicting on the innocent peoples lives yet they get away with it time and time again.

    My son was found not guilty due to the complainant being presented by her own barrister as a complainant of untruth yet still she will not be prosecuted for her lies and will be free to go on and do this to some other innocent family.

    My family are the real victims in this horrid ordeal but count ourselves lucky in another way as we were able to employ the services of Chris Saltrese Solicitors as without their expertise i truly believe we would not have got the result as these types of allegations through the stigma and public opinion are deemed to be guilty from the very outset.

    We should be looking to expose the core of the problem not slating the very people who do their very best to defend an almost impossible allegation.

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