THE BLOG

Here We Go Again

06/05/2013 13:13 BST | Updated 04/07/2013 10:12 BST

News that veteran BBC broadcaster, Stuart Hall, has admitted to a string of sex crimes involving girls and young women in the 60s, 70s and 80s is especially troubling for its similarities with the Savile inquiry.

Like Savile, it is alleged that Hall brought girls - one as young as nine - into the BBC's studios in Manchester and had access to a private room where he was alone with them. It has been suggested that some of the people working alongside him may have known or suspected what he was doing, but had failed to do anything about it.

If we have learned anything from the Savile enquiry, it is that those in positions of privilege or popular personalities must not be allowed to get away with crimes, regardless of how long ago they happened. They must be brought to account and it is never too late for abuse survivors to come forward to report the crimes against them.

One of the most concerning factors in this case is that there seems to be a pattern emerging in terms of what happened at the BBC at around this time and the leeway that TV personalities were given to behave as they wished. If proven, the alleged crimes that took place at BBC Manchester are indication of institutional child abuse - the type of abuse that happens behind closed doors and that people turn a blind eye to, leaving the children and young women affected to suffer in silence.

As a founder member of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign, I see similarities too with the kind of institutional abuse that has caused so much suffering in the Catholic Church and the Church of England. Such organisations have a responsibility to root out abuse and bring it into the spotlight so it can be stamped out and prevented from happening in the future.

One popular argument I heard about Savile and am now hearing about Hall is that it is difficult to believe the testimony of claimants who are speaking for the first time about crimes that took place decades ago. In my experience as a child abuse lawyer, I can vouch for the fact that it is not unusual for abuse survivors to repress their experiences for years in the belief that even if they did speak out, they would not be believed.

To prevent such abuses from being hidden away in the future, it is important that we take action to create a society in which those who have suffered abuse feel they can speak out and that they will be believed and treated sensitively. For this reason, the recent recommendations made by Keir Starmer QC to make changes to the way child abuse cases are handled and dealt with by the police authorities and the judiciary, are now critical.