How far will the Jimmy Savile fallout go?

Isn’t he being accused of not appropriately handling a set of accusations sent to the Home Office by an MP, about eight other prominent figures, back in '83 rather than the person indicated by Tagos

Actually, while I am not sure about defamation criminal statutes, Britain certainly has a standard for libel that is intimidating. Misunderstandings and factual errors without malice are not protected. There is no “public figure” defense. Only absolute truth is a defense. Thus, I doubt that many Brit posters are going to engage in the sort of innuendo bordering on outright claims in which Yank posters freely engage.

Lord Brittan has said an historical allegation of rape against him is “wholly without foundation”.

Yes it is. There’s no public interest immunity and the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove the statement was true, if they wish to use this as a defence. And the English courts are extremely liberal in claiming jurisdiction. Here’s a useful summary article.


A former cricketer successfully suing an Indian cricket administrator over a tweet.
An American author sued by a Saudi businessmanover a book which sold only 23 copies in England.
Roman Polanski sued *Vanity Fair *in London rather than the US or France.

It seems the cat is out of the bag, there is to be a big inquiry.

This looks very serious, the papers will be full of it tomorrow.

I guess it depends on how many of the victims come forward and give evidence against their abusers. Since most of them were young boys at the time this will be quite a big issue for them. The inquiry will only succeed if they the victims have confidence in the inquiry. The people involved are in quite a different league compared to entertainers like Savile and Harris in terms of their power and influence. Some of the perpetrators will be dead, but some must be still around. The Savile inquiry was very thorough formal criminal investigation by the police and it seems to have led to a sea-change in the way child abuse cases are now being handled.

Government inquiries vary in their terms of reference and their legal powers. This one seems to an independent group of experts. I expect there will be calls for it to be a more powerful type: a Public inquiry.

I am not sure how the powers of UK government inquiries compare to those in the US. I suspect they have far fewer powers.

The radio this morning mentioned that there’s at least ten serving or former MPs currently under investigation!

None of this is true following the Defamation Act 2013 (and there’s no such thing as “British libel law”, for posters who have used the phrase up-thread).

True – but as I understood it, the Defamation Act of 2013 applies only to claims arising starting in 2014. Any publication up to December 31, 2013 would still be actionable under the previous defendant-unfriendly scheme. Yes?

There are no laws in any British legal system that pertain to libel?

Yes, at least according to Wikipedia:

There isn’t a unified British legal system! The libel law that everybody gets up-in-arms about was specific to England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legal systems with separate defamation laws. For example, under Scots Law (a mix of civil law and common law), there’s no distinction between libel and slander, just a catch-all case of “defamation”, whereas the English and Welsh legal system (common law) considers the two separate.

I understand. Strictly speaking, though, as Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales are all part of the United Kingdom - colloquially referred to as “Britain” - then all of their laws are, in fact, British laws, despite the fact that they to not apply to the UK as a whole, similar to how Texas, New York and California state laws are all “American laws”, albeit not Federal laws.

And I apologise for descending into semantics.

No such thing that I’m aware of, and no reference to any such thing in the US in the above link.

We just have police.

Yes, but as one shouldn’t treat Californian laws as a model for Texan ones, you can go badly awry assuming that “British laws” can be meaningfully lumped together.

Anyhow, the wider point about the various libel and defamation laws in the UK is that their chilling effect - while a consideration - is being overstated by a media in search of excuses.

tagos, or any other private individual, has to be very careful publishing potentially actionable statements online because he lacks the financial and legal resources to get involved in any kind of dispute. He can’t get legal advice prior to publication, he can’t reasonably afford a court case and faces the prospect of annihilating damages. (tagos, if you are in fact a quillionaire with decades of libel law experience, I apologise for defaming you. Please don’t sue.)

By contrast, newspapers - especially the tabloids - have deep war chests, lawyers on hand to ensure no statements are made that exceed the available, legally admissable evidence, the contacts to initiate back channel discussions where both sides can show the strength of the cards they’re holding, and the funds to fight a court case all the way through the appeals process - and indeed, to pay damages in the event of a loss.

They also, of course, have the resources and skills to conduct their own investigation into rumours of misconduct in order to provide themselves with the evidence they need to back up a story - a process that I believe is technically known as journalism.

Given that, for them to claim that they were of course aware of rumours around Savile - or whoever - but that tragically they were gagged by the laws - is to a certain extent self serving bullshit. Given the glee with which they have hunted up evidence of mere adultery “in the public interest” their turning a blind eye to rumours of crime and genuine harm requires a much stronger explanation then mere legal risk mitigation.

Well that was embarrassing, I had no idea of the recent Act.

Are there not special congressional committees set up to investigate and report on some important issue? I seem to remember one relating to Clintons shennigans with Lewinsky.

'A tradition of inquiry

The tradition of the public inquiry has become a pivotal part of public life in Britain, and a major instrument of accountability. Some of the basic principles on which British inquiries are based are reflected in practice elsewhere, including in the Republic of Ireland,Israel, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, with its powerful Congressional committees…’

Public, Judicial, Independent…setting up an inquiry of some description is usually what happens when a matter of great concern arises and the government is expected to do something about it.

Is the Minister trying to contrive a way to limit its power and the scope of its investigation so it delivers what a minister wants to see…?

The whole situation is pretty sad, all those kids abused for decades.

The scope of the announced inquiry seems to have been welcomed; there is little criticism of the inquiry not being a public one in this instance. When dealing with historic sexual abuse of children I can imagine a public inquiry being counter productive.

Straight from the horse’s mouth, a former Conservative Party whip being interviewed in the 1990s admitting to suppressing scandals involving “small boys” so as to get a hold over a politician.

Ah the Whips Office!

Each party leader keeps their equivalent of ‘The Private files of J Edgar Hoover’ to blackmail MPs to ensure they vote according the party policy.

There will be various ‘black books’ the contain all the dirt. Most politicans of any senority would have had some experience working in the Whips office bribing MPs with jobs or threatening to reveal their indiscretions: patronage and blackmail.

Theresa May has ambitions of being the next Conservative Prime Minister. Clearly she and other contenders with influence feel that this investigation will not touch them, dealing with yesterdays men.

Whether this inquiry has the teeth to deal with this ‘House of Cards’, I have my doubts. I am sure there are more incriminating files being lost. Maybe if it finds witnesses and evidence from outside of the Westminster village.

I think that’s really the answer to your question in the OP. It’s not so much about a grand conspiracy masterminding a cover-up: it’s about a) a view of child abuse as being not all that big a deal - no worse, really, than a chap getting into debt - and b) basic moral and legal responsibilities being subservient to the interests of the institution. That institution could be a political party, the NHS, the BBC or whatever - but while people identified more strongly with the institution than they did with general civic responsibilities, pretty much anything could be swept under the carpet.
For example, here’s a quote from the report into Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor (pdf):

Note that the report is clear that there is no suggestion Currie or anyone else was aware of the rumours about Savile. What they did know was that he was a fucking DJ, for Christ’s sake. But it was still a good idea to appoint him to leadership/management role because he had the goods on the union. Two institutions were in conflict, and any solution that gave the government an edge was ipso facto a good one. As the report says (my bolding):