Jimmy Savile: Would any jury have convicted him?

Is the cover-up - if there was one - really so incomprehensible?

Share

There was always something disconcerting about Jimmy Savile beyond the clownish image he cultivated – something creepy that seemed to signal: stay clear. Now, 11 months after his death, it is becoming apparent what that something might have been. 

As a child, I was never a fan. As an adult, like pretty much everyone else, I admired him for his fund-raising and for the way he (and his staff) made sad children’s dreams come true. The bleak truth, though, according to an ITV documentary to be broadcast tomorrow, is that he also left some  children with nightmares. Nightmares they could not or would not articulate, or which, if they did, were met with disbelief.

The knives are now out in two directions. Some are pointed at Savile himself. Others are pointed at the media, but especially at the BBC, for – it is claimed – hushing up the star’s darker side. He was questioned by police in the 1970s, it is now confirmed, but no prosecution was brought.

In the cold hard light of posthumous inquiry, it is easy to condemn both Savile and his more or less willing protectors for concealing the truth about what were, in anyone’s book, heinous crimes. And, yes, it is scandalous if abused children were told that what happened to them did not happen and if Savile essentially blackmailed those who threatened to expose him with warnings that charitable donations would dry up. 

But is the cover-up, if there was one, really so incomprehensible? Today, accusations of child sexual abuse or even rape would surely outweigh any considerations of fame or fund-raising. But then? Defenders of the film director Roman Polanski weighed genius v rape and found in favour of art – he remains a wanted man in only part of the world. But just last month a London heart surgeon, Philipp Bonhoeffer, was struck off for improper conduct with young boys while working for a charity in Kenya. He will never again be able to do the good that, perhaps in his mind, went some way towards compensating for the bad. His training and healing gifts are lost.

And what if, without first-hand testimony or actual evidence, a prosecution of Savile had failed? If he had successfully sued for libel? Hindsight is a wondrous thing. But in the end, it is we, public opinion and those who form it, who test the crime against the cost of its exposure. Would any jury have convicted Savile at the height of his career? 

With his granite headstone now marking the grave he specified, in Scarborough, at an angle of 45 degrees to the sea, an apt epitaph might be from Shakespeare: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” In this day and age, though, can we not permit a reservation? While the evil will undoubtedly live on, should we really be so quick to bury the good? Savile should be allowed to be as complex in death as he was, it now appears, in life.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz