Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 20 April 2013

Can You See Who It Is Yet?

A little while ago, I wrote a blog about Rolf Harris being arrested in connection with Operation Yewtree. The problem was that Mr Harris had not been named, widely, in the press, or much at all, which was kinda the point of my post. I was not concerned that this was a problem with reference to my blog, but other people were. I was warned that publishing my thoughts might not be wise, and that there could be some small risk of being sued. I didn’t care, but other people, who matter very much to me, did care somewhat. I didn’t blog. I rather wish that I had.

Anyway, here, now, is the blog. I feel that it’s too late, and that I am as guilty as anyone else of treating Mr Harris differently from other people.

Two Little Boys had Two Little Toys...

Or two grown men had two little girls...

When I heard that an eighty-two year old Australian man, resident in Berkshire, was being questioned in connection with operation Yewtree, it didn’t take me more than a moment to work out that it was probably Rolf Harris. It took only another couple of minutes to put ‘Rolf Harris Yewtree’ into google and have the dots joined by several journalists, including, I believe, someone from the Telegraph, although I’m struggling to track down that source.

It’s shocking, though, isn’t it? For lots of reasons.

I don’t know what will come of all this. I believe that, so far, at least, the police haven’t confirmed that they’ve interviewed Mr Harris. I wonder why not. Generally, I understood that these things were confirmed. Nobody had any qualms about putting pictures of Stuart Hall (although not part of Operation Yewtree), Jim Davidson, Dave Lee Travis, Max Clifford and, of course, Jimmy Savile in the newspapers.

I’ve been waiting for about a fortnight to hear more on this story, and there hasn’t been a murmur. If you’re not tracking it, if you’re not looking for it, you won’t see it. How many of you had heard about it before reading this blog, this morning?

Of course, if it isn’t true, if he wan’t arrested and his house wasn’t searched, that’s fine. Let’s put it down to gossip. I apologise if I’ve spoilt your day. I didn’t mean to imply that Rolf Harris has ever done anyone any harm. On the other hand, if he was arrested, and his house was searched, and it’s in the public interest to report on these things, and other celebrity arrests were reported then why wasn’t this one?

Is there a double standard? If there’s a double standard where is it coming from?

If it’s about popularity, then it’s nonsense. I don’t care how well-loved a celebrity is if he’s committed a crime. I don’t care who’s who; if one arrest is reported then all of those arrested should be treated equally. If the police disclose one name to the press they should disclose all names. Why should one person get special treatment?

It is easy, with hindsight, to suggest that Jimmy Savile was a peculiar little man, that he was strange and that his behaviour could have been recognised and stopped. With hindsight, he doesn’t seem terribly plausible with his odd mannerisms and his tacky wardrobe. Rolf Harris, on the other hand...

We don’t like it do we? 

The problem is, we can all spot the obvious weirdoes. We can all do something about the weirdoes, even if it’s only steer clear of them. When the offender is a charming, educated, groomed, plausible, lovely man what are we to do then?

The problem is, the really successful conmen, and these people, men and women, are conmen first and foremost, learn to be groomed and charming, and plausible and lovely. Jimmy Savile did what he did in plain sight and got away with it because he had status. He might not have been quite as successful in his criminal pursuits had he lived in the ‘real’ world, because he would have been seen as a weirdo, and people might well have steered clear. 

When these criminals are finally brought to book, their friends, families, neighbours and coworkers are often shocked, stunned even, that they could commit such terrible crimes, because they were always such charming, lovely, clean-living, caring people.

You bet they were. 

Appearing to be the nicest people in the World is exactly how these people get what they want.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more, my sister in law mentioned Rolf Harris some months ago to me in connection with Yewtree and I was quite shocked.

    We can only hope that the truth will out. Whilst the case against Saville is pretty black and white, and it's a travesty that he wont stand trial, I can see the CPS having a hard time bringing successful convictions against some of the other suspects, especially when it might just be one or two accusations.

    With lack of physical evidence in most historic cases, it can come down to taking someone's word for it. I would like to think that all the claims made by people who have been abused in this way are genuine, however I have first hand experience with someone very close to me being accused of child abuse. The police investigated and found no case to answer, this was a really hard time for my friend. Talking to family and friends about it was extremely difficult and that was without the media spotlight.

    Accusations such as these brought to light by operation Yewtree, clearly need to be investigated, and if the authorities believe there is a case to answer then it should rightly go to court. Suspects need to have their day in a court, and be judged by their peers, however these peers should be unbiased.

    I cant help but think that like rape victims who's anonymity is respected, people who are tried for certain crimes should not be named until charges have actually been made. False charges of this nature can wreck peoples lives.

    We now have to put our faith in the police and the CPS, the media on the other hand is all about money, weather its leaking something to sell more copies, and hushing up a story to possibly save on the legal bills if the story proves false.

    These crimes that these celebrities of yesteryear stand accused of are sickening, what's more sickening to me is that for the last 50 years or more we have created a society where victims feel unable to speak out, or when they did speak out, were ignored and sidelined in favour of celebrity.

    The most worrying thing is that celebrity power gets greater and greater, we only have to look at Michael Jackson to see that with enough media savy and deep pockets, these people can come back from anything.

    I personally believe that the media is not serving the public interest by publishing these names before any actual charges are brought, its actually a danger to securing convictions to those who are found guilty.

    And back to Nics comments, if they are going to name these people, they need to name them all or none at all.

  2. if I had my way you wouldn't even hear about an arrest, a trial, or the crime, until it'd been through the court system and appeals exhausted. I don't see why we need to know about any of it, until the convictions have been applied. it seems to me it's too easy to have your name ruined before you've even made it to court.

    when the news Mr Harris had been questioned got around here, people were already making cracks as if he'd already been convicted of abusing children (assuming that's even the allegations put against him.

    I also have my doubts about chasing historic allegations, purely because of the evidence that supports the idea that eyewitness testimony can be pretty unreliable, without throwing time at it.

    now I'm all for convicting those that do the crime, myself included, but people shouldn't be hung by the people before they've even been convicted. with all the media hype flying around, even if they aren't proven guilty, many people have already decided they were (of course if that happens to them then it's a travesty).

    for some reason this is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, if the person in question is well known for anything at all. probably because it's making money for someone somewhere.

    as for me, I've had a good friend of mine dragged through the media in a high publicity case, and it was hard watching strangers and people who never gave him the time of day all weighing in like self-appointed experts. the upshot being that now a fair chunk of them have convinced themselves of something that never quite happened. clearly it suits them to do so.

    I don't think this is anything new either, it's probably related to attribution errors (that whole they slipped cos they're clumsy, I slipped because the stair is badly designed ...). but I'm beginning to wonder if its just wilful delusion, a preferred gross misperception to boost their own flagging self-concept.

  3. Having worked in the law on and off for many years, I have encountered first hand the sometimes vast difference between the approach of legal professionals and laypersons to possible bias. Without the training and practice of dispassion that lawyers (and others through work or self-improvement) undergo it is hard for humans not to fall back on "no smoke without fire". Therefore I can see good reason not to release names before a crime has been proven.

    However, there is also the need for the authorities to be seen to be doing something, and doing it openly; questioning or arrest without an openly circulated explanation could (in an extreme case) be used to oppress or disappear people. Therefore limiting what the press may say about investigations is dangerous.

    Ultimately the press only print what we wish to read, so any difference between the reporting of a school teacher being investigated and a celebrity is the result of an appetite for titillation over clarity.