In my New Year’s Eve blog post about Jimmy Savile and his legacy of malignant narcissism I posed the following questions:
Now then? Now then? Now what? Now what?
When the actor Bill Roache was acquitted of rape and sexual assault charges last month, in what is seen by some as a post-Savile persecution of wrinkly celebrities, ‘How did it ever get to court?’ was the headline of the Daily Mail.
During the trial, Roache’s defence barrister described it as having been haunted by the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile. In the final submissions to the jury at Preston Crown Court, Louise Blackwell QC said:
“Jimmy Savile is like an elephant in the room. You can’t ignore it. Jimmy Savile has affected, in fact, infected this trial and investigation of these offences.”
Roache commented on his acquittal that, “In these situations, there are no winners.”
We are all losers when our system of justice fails. Certainly the Crown Prosecution Service cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the Jimmy Savile scandal, and recently we have seen a line-up of celebrities accused of serious sex offences. Preceding Roache, his fellow Coronation Street actor, Michael Le Vell and former disc-jockey Dave Lee Travis were tried and found innocent of sex abuse charges against them. All referred to the ‘hell’ they had been through as a result of the charges and trial. Allegations of sex abuse must needs be taken seriously and be thoroughly investigated, but these trials raise concerns about the process and whether there has been an over-compensation in the light of the failings to bring Jimmy Savile to justice. Bill Roache may feel he has won nothing; neither have the women who accused him, although unlike him, they have been afforded the privilege of anonymity.
It is nefarious to abuse others sexually. Is it not equally so to knowingly and falsely accuse someone of wrongdoing?
Last week I had occasion to reflect on both the ongoing trial of Max Clifford, the 70 year old celebrity publicist, who faces 11 charges of indecent assault against teenagers, and my son’s English Literature homework, an analysis of Act 1, Scene 5 in Macbeth. There, Lady Macbeth expresses her worry that her husband has too much empathy and compassion to fulfil ambition by murdering Duncan.
“I think we should all be much kinder to ourselves.”
Bill Roache is right. To be kind is to be human.