“Operation Yewtree” Coverage Shows Why It Helps If the Media Like You

First of all, apart from Sir Jimmy Savile, I am not going to mention any names in this post. I would ask too that people commenting on this thread refrain from naming anyone either.

The Metropolitan Police inquiries into the activities of the former TV star have three main strands.

  • One is looking specifically at the actions of Savile.
  • The second strand concerns allegations against “Savile and others”.
  • The third – named “others” – relates to alleged complaints against other people unconnected to the Jimmy Savile investigations.

As the BBC reported yesterday, ten people have been arrested and one suspect was interviewed under caution.

On each occasion so far that someone has been arrested the media have covered the story, naming the suspect, and, of course, not seeking to suggest any guilt. After all, the presumption of innocence applies.

In almost every case so far a common factor has been that, if you look at previous publicity regarding the individuals, there have been “questions” about them, or they are seen as somehow less than universally popular. (By that I do NOT mean to suggest rumours of criminal activity, but rather that the people provoked, in some, negative opinions.)

Over the last couple of days another apparently well-known person has been arrested. I have not seen any main stream media outlet naming the person. (If there has been such an instance, then I have missed it, but in any event this arrest has had far less publicity given to it as regards the name of the accused than any other so far).

Perhaps it is not coincidence but the person named elsewhere as the latest to be arrested IS universally popular. It is hard, even if you look for it, to find anything negative said about them.

We therefore have an interesting conundrum.

There is the presumption of innocence in this country. Arrest or charge does not establish guilt. The press believe, rightly, that reporting on issues of criminal law, whilst obeying the rules on contempt of court, defamation and libel is a necessary part of a democratic society.

However, especially in areas such as those resulting from the Yewtree inquiries, mere mention of a person’s name as an accused almost certainly will have a devastating effect on the person, and their family. That applies even if the allegations are entirely different and of an infinitely less serious scale than those made against Sir Jimmy Savile. (And by that I do not mean to label any allegations made as “trivial” but, as with any criminal offences, there is a scale of seriousness, depending on the nature of the offence, the circumstances of the victim and any relationship or connection with the accused).

It is not unknown for people facing serious criminal allegations, especially of a criminal nature, to do harm to themselves, sometimes fatally. This is particularly so once publicity is given to their case, whether before, during or after trial.

If we take a celebrity, called for these purposes Joe Bloggs (and no reference is intended to anyone of that name in real life), how will they cope in future having been identified as involved in the Yewtree inquiry?

First of all, if convicted in court they will be punished according to the law. That is simple enough.

If Mr Bloggs was convicted of only one comparatively trivial offence, rather than the most serious ones being looked at by Yewtree, then he would find himself forever linked to the investigation, but his guilt would make the matter of that association less severe.

What if Mr Bloggs is acquitted, or if the Crown Prosecution Service decides not to proceed with a prosecution “on the grounds of insufficient evidence”?

Mr Bloggs will then find himself forever linked in the public’s mind with the crimes of Sir Jimmy Savile. The “no smoke without fire” brigade will be out in force.

People who gain their knowledge of the news from certain papers will never see the story of the acquittal or the dropping of charges portrayed with the prominence of the arrest or trial. Because people would wonder, if they saw Mr Bloggs on TV after acquittal, “how can that man be allowed on TV?” most TV companies would, I imagine, decline to use his services.

In a case like this media coverage of the arrest, even if staying firmly within the bounds of the law and fairness, has the same effect on the public view as a conviction.

These arguments are behind the regular attempts to have anonymity for the accused, whether in all criminal cases, or in those where anonymity is already given to the accuser. Those attempts have always failed, and will continue to do so.

Should criminal cases against prominent, famous or influential people be allowed to proceed in camera then it creates the possibility or perception that such people might benefit from their position, and achieve an outcome which would not be open to the commonality of people.

The media insist, rightly so, that they are entitled to publicise matters in accordance with the law, and the arrest and subsequent charging and prosecution of individuals falls into that category.

But when we have what seems to have occurred over the last couple of days – where there seems to have been the arrest of an undoubtedly popular person but the press have very carefully refrained from naming them – it undermines the argument that they have a duty to publish.

As an individual, I do tend towards the anonymity for the accused stance, perhaps until the matter reaches trial. I can see why, in the present instance, there is reluctance to name the person. I agree with that. But it suggests that, in other cases, editors might have looked at the name on the latest news report and said “No one likes him” and asked their Crime Reporter to get a piece written for the front page immediately.

So where does this lead to?

It shows how hard and responsible a job the editors of the mainstream media have. They know that their decisions to name an arrested person could have dramatic and irretrievable consequences for such an individual and their family.

It shows that this is an area of the law where there needs to be renewed efforts to find a solution which is fair to all involved. But that is a Gordian Knot of a problem.

It shows that there is a lot to be gained from being universally popular with the press, and someone against whom no one says a bad word.

It also shows how, in doing what right thinking people would view as the “right thing” by not publishing this person’s identity, it shows that the apparently principled stance of the press in insisting on publishing details in other cases, despite the consequences for the accused, is not in fact based on a universally applicable principle.

Let us hope that those who are guilty are convicted and punished according to law, and that those who are innocent are accepted as such. But I suspect that, for everyone already named as arrested under Yewtree, even if cleared without a stain on their characters, the damage, and critical and lifelong damage at that, has been done already.

Posted by Paul McConville

NB As I said at the top of the piece, please don’t name anyone in the comments who has been mentioned, or even rumoured to be mentioned, as part of these inquiries.

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27 Comments

Filed under Contempt of Court, Criminal Law, Press

27 responses to ““Operation Yewtree” Coverage Shows Why It Helps If the Media Like You

  1. The people involved in the cover ups are every bit as bad as those who carried out these evil deeds , they new it was wrong but STILL covered it up these scum must feel the full wrath of the law , no matter how long ago it took place their compliance in the cover ups put more children at risk SHAME ON ANY WHO COVER UP THESE SICKENING CRIMES .

  2. Paul I respect your wishes to keep the name out of the blog however it does seem that this shows that the MSM are completely blinded and biased.

    There is no legal reason that this person should remain protected in this manner and even more reason to expose the person given his histroric connections with young children.

    Just because he has an ongoing relationship with royal family and BBC do not mean that the public should not be aware of him and allow anonimity to prevent other possible victims to raise the courage and come forward.

    I support the fact that people deserve to be considered innocent until charged and proved guilty.

    It is in court that they are then given ample opportunity to clear their names and be free from any taint.

    The simple fact is that the authorities have considered that they have enough evidence to charge this person and that should be enough for anyone to release the details.

    There are no legal restrictions that I am aware of to prevent disclosure so why the establishment is stacking up behind him is anyones business.

    In my opinion it is wrong and they should be naming he clearly in equal measure as the other accused.

    If I was one of the other co accused then I would be using this as a legal argument that I was likely to get a fair trial and seek to have the matter dismissed. These people cannot pick favourites, if he has been charged then he has questions to be answered and he should be treated the same as all the others and have his details disclosed publically.

    If they try him in Edinburgh he is likely to be released and handed another royal honour.

  3. That should read UNLIKELY to get a fair trial

  4. Stevo1959

    The name of the individual is already circulating widely on the blogosphere …(edited). Leveson and the politicians ‘ attempts to interpret his recommendations is an outright attack on freedom of speech. You either have full public disclosure a la First Amendment or total censorship. Anywhere inbetween is ultimately indefensible as the result can only be ‘interpretations’ on what an elite consider to be the public interest.

  5. Monti

    Tainted title No1 & counting, what do you get for winning the bottom tier? Decanter & glasses plus a cheque for £100,000 pmsl!!! It’s not Champions league level income is it? Just saying like..

    • And another world record Monti. The only team EVER to get Boooooed off the park, by their own fans, wwhen winning a league title. I don’t think that one will be broken …..Except by themselves!

    • Robert Smith

      Only 2 tainted titles in this country my dear beggar and that’s wee bigoted treacle teeths last year and this year ,

  6. I had no idea another arrest had been made in this inquiry until reading your article Paul. 2 seconds later I had the suspects name courtesy of google.
    I must say my initial thought was disbelief, such is the man’s public persona. Why the MSM have refused to name him is anybody’s guess. Whether it be down to his popularity or indeed disbelief by themselves remains to be seen, but I doubt it. As his identity is so easily uncovered I will asume it has more to do with market share, and the demigraph of the readership.
    As this inquiry is coming to light, it would appear to me that the police are not only investigating a paedophile ring, but a wider conspiracy of blind eyes and hushed tones. Although this wider circle may not have had direct involvement, their actions or lack of them are equally as abhorrent.
    It must be remembered that anyone who had knowledge of these crimes, could have prevented any further abuses of these poor children. To think that details of this abuse may have been common knowledge in certain circles is stomach churning!
    I will not miss a heartbeat if anyone involved, or knew of, these offences decides to stand on a chair under the nearest light fitting.
    Inner circle, or outer circle, I would have no hesitation in kicking the chair away.
    But getting back to the MSM, They are gradually losing their ability to protect their “friends”, and what they choose to print or not. Their influence will die completely when the generation who buy their rags dies.
    Another reason to protect the WWW, from any form of censorship from the powers that be.
    I wish the police every luck in bringing this inquiry to a very successful conclusion, and ridding society of these creatures.

  7. John

    Well tie me kangeroo down sport. Is this why he went on a stairway to heaven? To find two little boys. Can you guess what it is yet

  8. Fra

    This was plastered all over the Australian news. No name but stating one of Australia’s best loved stars with his age. When you google his age it comes up with this person. My wife’s reaction was ‘no, it can’t be.’ The chances of finding another 82 year old Australian, much loved in British showbiz circles, would be astronomical.

    Saville has been outed and there’s hardly a person in the UK who wouldn’t have thought ‘I knew there was something dodgy about that guy.’ Sensationalism sells papers but naming a person who is then innocent could have devastating consequences for them and their family. We have seen cases where a man is accused of rape. His accusers name and picture is withheld while he is plastered all over the papers, only to be found not guilty. Result being, the guy is devastated, embarrassed and suicidal while the accuser walks away with her anonymity in tact.

    Why was this guys name withheld? I haven’t a clue but the conspiracy theorists will be having a field day. Is it because he is ‘close’ to the royal family. Why wasn’t the same consideration given to Freddie Starr, Dave Lee Travis et al. Could this guy blow the whistle on the who, where and how often. By not being consistent, the courts have raised more questions than they’ve answered.

    It seems that Operation Yewtree has lumped all these crimes into a neat little bundle. Didn’t one of the arrested say he might have felt a fellow colleagues breasts on numerous occassions. Not acceptable but to be lumped in with paedophillia is in their eyes also not acceptable. Arrest the suspects, question the suspects and if they are charged, then name the suspects. If the suspects are then proved to be innocent, then sue the police.

    • @Fra

      “By not being consistent, the courts have raised more questions than they’ve answered.”

      Hate to appear pedantic on so serious an issue, but in the sense of the paragraph, it’s the main stream media who are at fault here, not the courts.

      However if the inconsistency comment is in relation to the previous paragraph on alleged rapists please accept my apologies for the misunderstanding.

      • Fra

        Rab, I wasn’t too sure why it wasn’t published but never thought the press had any scruples about shaming anybody unless ordered to by the courts. Maybe after the hoo-ha with Murdoch they are terrified but then why name the others? Paul covers all of this in his blog much more eloquently than myself but it just seemed strange to lump them all together

  9. Budweiser

    Fra.

    Like Paul says, don’t mention any names., and probably rightly so.it’s so easy to smear a person. Mud sticks and no matter what happens later, the mud is still there. Like I said to carson, my mate was an Ibrox ‘hospitality suite’ guy and told me about ‘goings on’ with certain players. Good gossip I’m sure, and great tittle tattle.There was no inclination to pursue the matters in the msm but Roxburgh certainly put ‘ a shot across the bows ‘ in respect of a certain rangers player.Point scoring on this issue is , well, pointless.

  10. Fra

    Bud, as has been stated, his identity will be well known by now. One of the guys arrested has been let off as the accuser withdrew her allegation. This guys name will forever be associated with Saville and as Paul says ‘no smoke without fire.’

    Just a slight connection of a link to Saville would be enough to destroy most people careers. Was there a paedophillia ring in operation at the bbc? I don’t know but if there was, then go after them but to have three strands of an investigations all tied together seems quite wrong.

  11. Bill Fraser

    Can we please stop referring to him as “SIR” Jimmy Savile? With references to him being removed from around the country it seems inappropriate to carry on using the title which will no doubt be stripped from him once the case is closed. Though I am no fan of the honours system, it is a total abomination that we should somehow be expected to look up to this monster as someone who has been given an award for services to the nation.

  12. I dont want to trivalise sex crimes but we stand idley by as hundreds of thousand CHILDREN are aborted every year.

  13. Boselecta

    Although some I agree will be tainted unjustly indeed. But one of them should be arrested purely on the fact that he admitted knowing about savile and a ten year old girl and kept his mouth shut. He said he was scared of savile but I wonder if his reaction would have been the same if it were his daughter with savile. As far as I am concerned if you are aware of such a crime taking place and keep silent about it then you are guilty of withholding evidence at very least. And for him to say how awful the last few months have been for him is an insult to the ten year old victim of savile

  14. Pingback: Operation Yewtree – The Sun’s “Exclusive” News re Latest Arrest – Which Media Knew In March | Random Thoughts Re Scots Law by Paul McConville

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