Huffpost UK uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Neil Wallis Headshot

Jimmy Savile and Other Unpublished Scandals - Danger of Leveson Inquiry

Posted: Updated:

Imagine if The Sun had printed an expose "Jimmy Savile is a Paedophile".

Imagine it had taken the sworn word of several young women victims, gone against the legal advice (for it would have been No!) like the Daily Mail did over naming the Stephen Lawrence killers, and printed the sort of allegations that have been aired this week in the wake of ITV's brave documentary.

Imagine then the carnage of the subsequent court case, where £750-a-hour barristers expertly tore to shreds the reputation of the paper's frightened and less-than-sophisticated witnesses, poring over the most minute detail of the sexual history of the disturbed young kids Savile had expertly targeted, while smiling benign old Jimmy sat in the dock in a purple shellsuit and waited to bring on the succession of character witnesses including royalty and former prime ministers to defend his honour.

Finally, imagine the record size of the libel damages - and then what play the whole miserable saga would have got from Lord Justice Leveson and his acolyte Mr Robert Jay QC at his subsequent Inquiry into the press.

Because, if Leveson was willing to give courtroom space to 20-year-old allegations from Anne Diamond, the whinings of the gruesome Max Mosley, and untested unsubstantiated wild claims from a prostitute-using fading actor, just think what airtime he would have given Saint Jimmy.
And that, in a nutshell, is why His Lordship is going to ensure that a whole load more Jimmy Saviles are going to get away with evil in the future.

Because Post-Leveson the British press are simply going to be too frightened to even risk that kind of expose any more.

As I've chronicled before, the chilling effect of Leveson-fear is already evident in our taboid and mid-market papers. In my very first Huffington Post UK blog on 22 August this year I warned:
"Stories about disgraced MPs, high society vice rings, cheating married celebrities, philandering tycoons, have all but disappeared from the papers. Not because they're not there - trust me, they never go away - but because even if you can get them past the lawyer you are still to scared to try and get them past His Lordship."

The Jimmy Savile story - or rather, the lack of it - is the perfect example of that. And I could tell you many more from a 35-year-career in national tabloid newspapers. The top Cabinet Minister and the rentboy? The MP who loved child pornography? The mega-rich tycoon and the (very young) shopgirls? The MP and the 13-year-old girl? The "superstud" telly star who secretly prefers guys? The supermodel super-hooker (only £25,000 a night, folks)? The sex-pest "sex-bomb" actress who no woman who knew her dared get into a lift with?

Untold stories like those around Fleet Street are legion. All the stories above - and many more - were investigated by newspapers. Talented, experienced reporters dug away for weeks or months, Large amounts of money were expended, expert legal advice sought and considered, risks agonised over....and ultimately all the stories above were spiked because the newspapers just didn't believe they could win in a libel court. Creatures like Savile trade off that. Lord Justice Leveson will give them succour.

There's been much chatter on Twitter this week suggesting that somehow the tabloids failed in their inability to bring Savile to book, despite the fact that rumours about him and young girls were very widely known indeed. They failed for the reasons above. But at least journalists did have a go.

Sadly, post the Leveson Inquiry, I really doubt that they'd even risk it now. Could an Editor survive losing such a legal case as I've described with their job intact? The News of the World lost the Max Mosley case because a judge ruled that it wrongly added an untrue twist to what most right-thinking people would still believe was disgusting and perverted behaviour. Yet Mosley has managed to convert himself into some noble folk hero in some quarters, to be listened to respectfully at Leveson while experienced and sensible newspaper executives were barely tolerated. Would newspapers even risk a Mosley-style investigation now, knowing the hunger currently abroad to do down the tabloid newspaper industry?

Who would risk putting their job, their newspaper, on the line now to give a voice to the victims, the down-trodden, the abused - the people that the Jimmy Saviles, the Gary Glitters, of the world prey upon?

Lord Justice Leveson insists he believes in Press Freedom, but... It is now a very big But indeed. Because many Editors and proprietors awaiting Leveson LJ's report next month on their industry with great trepidation are now feeling it is just not worth the risk any more to even publish such stories. In which case, why even bother investigating them?

Which, for the Jimmy Saviles of this world, is very very good news indeed.