In October 2012, it was revealed in an ITV documentary that Jimmy Savile had sexually abused 4 women. What came next was an unprecedented landslide of claims of sexual abuse stretching a 60 year span and Jimmy Savile was far from being the only perpetrator.
But what has been learned from the thousands of cases of sexual abuse, many of which were accusations made against those in the limelight? Peter Garsden, lead Abuse Solicitor, investigates the many cases of famous individuals convicted of abuse and the lessons learned in the process.
Documentary Provides Strength For Abuse Survivors
The ITV documentary in 2012 exposed just 4 survivors of the abuse Savile committed. After the documentary was aired, an unprecedented amount of survivors came forward. They came forward with stories about Savile and his widespread grooming, sexual assault and rape. But the documentary also provided those who had experienced abuse, that was not at the hands of Savile, the strength to come forward.
A report on Operation Yewtree that was appropriately named, ‘Giving Victims a Voice’ explained why the documentary had provided survivors the push to come forward.
“The reasons offered for not speaking out previously included:
- fear of not being believed or taken seriously
- shame being brought on one’s self or the family
- a perception that they were responsible
- a lack of trust in statutory agencies and feeling the justice system; was ineffective in prosecuting the offender
- a fear of getting themselves or the perpetrator into trouble
- a perception that the abusive behaviour was ‘normal’
- the perpetrator used threats and coercion to silence them.”
Celebrity Abuse Cases
After Savile’s dark past was revealed, abuse survivors came forward with stories about other people in the limelight who had abused them. TV and music stars, politicians and radio stars were among the accused.
Rolf Harris was convicted in 2014 of 12 indecent assaults against four different abuse survivors. He has now been released from prison after serving three years. Two other victims have since come forward and Harris is now facing further charges of indecent assault.
Former TV weatherman, Fred Talbot, was found guilty of sexual offences against 7 boys when he was a teacher and is currently serving a 5 year prison sentence. He was already serving a 5 year sentence for indecently assaulting two other schoolboys who had been under his care on a trip to Scotland.
In 2015, Gary Glitter was found guilty of child sex offences dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. The Prosecutor at the trial stated that Glitter had remained unpunished for 40 years because of his, “immunity of fame”.
Are Celebrities ‘Untouchable’?
In 2008, Joanne Mjadzelics reported that Ian Watkins, lead singer of the Lost Prophets, had told her he had given a child cocaine, and touched them inappropriately. She promptly went to the police. It was not until 2012 that Watkins was investigated.
The investigations were originally centred around Watkins’ alleged involvement in the importing of drugs from the U.S. But upon a search of his home, officers quickly realised that he was a paedophile and proceeded with investigations. Watkins was jailed for his crimes in 2013 for 35 years.
The cases of Savile and Watkins have some worrying similarities in which complainants came forward to accuse them both, years before they were investigated and allegations were taken more seriously. In Savile’s case, this was a gap of 57 years.
In the case of Watkins, South Wales have investigated what went wrong in the four years between the first recorded accusation and the day he was arrested in 2012.
Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said,
“Today’s report highlights a number of failings in which information about Watkins was investigated between 2008 and 2012 which the force entirely accepts and regrets. South Wales police failed to listen and properly investigate information about Watkins offending behaviour, for this we are truly sorry. The review instigated as a result of Watkins’ arrest led to significant changes being made to the way we investigate crimes of this nature.”
The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sex Abuse
In 2015, IICSA was set up as a method of ensuring mistakes like those of South Wales in the Watkins case, and many police departments across the UK in the case of Savile, are avoided and those who investigate learn the dark lessons of history.
“The Watkins case is sadly evidence that the notion of ‘historical abuse’ is a mistaken one. I hope that the release of the recent report on the investigations of Watkins is a reminder to all that abuse is not a product of a certain time period”
“The methods and effects of abuse are usually the same no matter how famous the perpetrator is. Victims must have the confidence to think that if they go to the police they will be listened to and believed in a way that has not happened in this case”
“The Independent Police Complaints Commission has shown that there is no room for prejudice one way or the other in policing. It is a matter of evidence collection in an objective and dispassionate way that will make the difference in cases such as these.”