This isn\’t illegal

It wasn\’t then and it isn\’t now:

His comments came after Savile\’s former director on Jim\’ll Fix It revealed he saw the presenter having sex with a 16-year-old girl in his dressing room and informed BBC officials but they did nothing.

David Nicolson, 67, said he reported the incident to his bosses at the corporation in 1988 but was rebuffed and simply told: \”That\’s Jimmy\”.

He told The Sun newspaper: “I was revolted by his behaviour. They just shrugged it off, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah — that’s the way it goes’.”

“Everyone knew what was going on. That includes senior BBC people — chiefs at the highest levels.

It may well have been immoral, unethical, but not illegal. The age of consent is 16. And that\’s that. It\’s entirely possible to say that the age of consent should not be 16, it should be some other number. But it is.

36 thoughts on “This isn\’t illegal”

  1. But the fact that what happened in the past was legal doesn’t stop people trying to make the act immoral. Just like RichardJMurphy trying to make something legal an immoral act (tax avoidance).

    All they media hoopla is about shroud waving and getting publicity for organisations that have children as their main interest. And if they can whip up media hysteria and publicity by making something sound illegal by using words like pedophile then the means justify the end.

    If there was something illegal going on at the time why did the police not get involved immediately. Why is it always someone talking to a social worker or manager about what they saw who then rebuffed them for the possible bad publicity. You don’t need managerial authority to go to the police.

  2. The Julia Fernandez story is a joke and makes me think that a lot of these accusations are just absurd.

    What would most people consider as “groping”? Well, I’d think someone grabbing a woman’s arse, maybe her tits, perhaps upper thighs. Julia Fernandez’ “groping” was that Saville’s hands “lingered in certain places for too long”. So, instead of just patting her on the knee, he held his hand there for a few seconds.

    I’m not even saying it’s right, but for fuck’s sake, can’t we agree there’s a scale which starts at being a little overfamiliar and goes up to grabbing someone’s crotch and that describing yourself as a “victim” because of someone being a little overfamiliar is a bit pathetic?

  3. SBML,

    You don’t need managerial authority to go to the police.

    Yeah, the glorious “angels” working in the NHS who decide to speak out after he’s dead. People can say that Saville was powerful or that he seemed such a trustworthy character, but people have a huge amount of trust in nurses. The accusations would have been believed and taken seriously by the police.

    I suspect that the reality is that the 1970’s was another country. If you watch the film Gregory’s Girl, there’s a scene where two teachers are talking in code about shagging pupils. The other teacher is seen as disapproving of it (which is to show that he his time with Dorothy is purely educational), but if shot today, it would seem wrong for him to not call the police.

    I think that while parents were more active in trying to stop their kids having sex before marriage in the 1970s, because so many got married at around 18 or 19, a 14 year old having sexual relations was seen as less abnormal than it is today. The attitude was more about protecting their virtue than being “traumatised”. However, pedophilia was not tolerated. Peter Adamson went to trial for indecent assault on two young girls and was sacked from Coronation St.

  4. Jim,

    I’m doubly annoyed that my “Jim’ll Fix It” didn’t happen. Not only would I have met the Six Million Dollar Man, I could probably have got a few grand out of claiming that “Paedo Jimmy” had touched me inappropriately.

  5. Yes, having sex with a 16-year-old backstage isn’t illegal, and maybe not even immoral, just sordid, but nothing out of the ordinary for showbiz or pop music. And the Fernandez story is indeed a publicity-seeking joke.

    But this defence is a bit beside the point. The BBC knew for decades that he was doing it with girls *under* 16, well under 16, and did nothing. (Yes, they did know, everyone at the Beeb knew, it wasn’t much of a secret).

  6. Tredwell,

    But this defence is a bit beside the point. The BBC knew for decades that he was doing it with girls *under* 16, well under 16, and did nothing. (Yes, they did know, everyone at the Beeb knew, it wasn’t much of a secret).

    So, do you report everyone that works for you that you know smokes a joint or has done some kerb crawling or downloads an MP3?

  7. The Stigler: indeed, one wonders how this is all going to pan out. Can anyone who was provably in the same building as JS at the BBC at some point in the past claim they were abused and get compensation? On their word alone? Will any proof at all be necessary to claim some cash? What sort of proof could possibly be available?Will the BBC just pay everyone who crawls out of the woodwork? Or will cases have to go to court and be subject to perjury laws, rules of evidence etc?

    I’m glad I don’t pay a licence fee, so none of my cash will be paying for it all, though I suppose my taxes will fund the NHS side of the claims. Another nice little earner for the lawyers anyway. How ironic that they’ve just finished the Saville Inquiry in NI, and now they’ve got another one with the same name to get to work on here. Maybe they had a job lot of headed notepaper that needed using up or something.

  8. So, do you report everyone that works for you that you know smokes a joint or has done some kerb crawling or downloads an MP3?

    Of course, because on the scale of criminality those are of the same degree as ‘doing it’ with minors, right?

    /sarky

  9. The behaviour on HIGNFY last night was despicable. The editor of Private Eye didn’t apologise for not shopping him. The former mayor of London didn’t apologise for the Met not investigating him. The BBC types, Merton and Balding, said nothing about the Beeb’s role.

    And yet they all sermonised at great and tedious length, and still without actually saying what the creep had done that was illegal. Bollocks.

  10. I’m just wondering if all this means there’s now going to be a re-reappraisal of Oscar “Cruising For Chicken” Wilde, or whether this whole “fancying people much much younger than yourself” thing is only perverse when it’s heterosexual.

  11. ukliberty,

    Of course, because on the scale of criminality those are of the same degree as ‘doing it’ with minors, right?

    They both warrant a maximum of a criminal sentence, in the case of possession of cannabis of 5 years. I’d say that 5 years in jail is quite a high sentence, and thus would reflect a high degree of criminality.

    What we can see is that “society”, whether it be individual, social groups, the police and the media, despite having a law with a very stiff sentence, choose to ignore such crimes. Despite having a 5 year sentence in law, most people don’t take it very seriously. In fact, if you were at a work party and a couple of guys started baking, and you called the police, you’d be considered as a social pariah at work the following day. The stoners would hate you, while most of your co-workers would consider you a massive killjoy.

    So, how much of a leap of imagination is it to ask whether people running the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s also had a different attitude to the law with regard to having sex with willing 14 year olds? I mentioned the Gregory’s Girl scene, but you can also count the suggestions in the original St Trinians films (a schoolgirl cuddling a senior officer in his chair before being interrupted), 16 year old Page 3 girls. The Bill Wyman/Mandy Smith story, or who was shagging Lori Mattix would not play out today like it did then.

  12. Talk of a maximum 5-year sentence for possessing cannabis is more than somewhat misleading. The usual police action for possession of a small amount of cannabis is to issue an “informal warning”. If you phoned the police to tell them you’d seen someone smoking a joint it’s entirely certain they’d take no action.

    It seems to me that the social norm is not to report people for what are perceived to be victimless crimes. It’s possible that a middle-aged man having sex with a willing 14-year-old girl would have been seen as a victimless crime in the 1970s, but it isn’t now.

  13. “So, do you report everyone that works for you that you know smokes a joint or has done some kerb crawling or downloads an MP3?”

    What if you’d walked in on that Penn State coach screwing a young boy in the showers? Would you have kept quiet like the guy who did walk in, or would you have kicked the shit out of him and called the police like I would have done? Guess we know the answer to that. Remind me never to leave my daughter (or my son) around you.

    I can certainly tell you what I would have done if I had been in senior management at the BBC at the time. I’d have gotten rid of him at the very least. The occasional mature 15-year-old girl who was begging for it, perhaps I’d let that pass. But trying it on with every young girl he meets when he’s running kids shows? Out on his arse before he could say go. What would you have done? Renewed his contract over and over I suppose?

  14. Can somebody from the “hegemonic morality” side of the equation clarify something please? Consider a situation in which a 14 year old girl has had sex with a male of (a) 14 (b) 18 (c) 30 (d) 60. In each case she did so willingly.

    Are the four cases morally different in quality and/or degree? If so, on what basis exactly?

  15. Ian B

    Depends on what you mean by ‘willingly’. Agreement can range from forced to enthusiastic, especially with kids.

    That’s what the fuss is about.

  16. That’s why I said “willingly” rather than something more vague like “consented”. The girl made a conscious choice to have sex. The question is whether the act is morally different with different aged partners if every other variable is the same. It is a thought experiment.

  17. I can certainly tell you what I would have done if I had been in senior management at the BBC at the time.

    What exact allegations were made to which senior managers at the BBC, and by whom?

  18. Tredwell:

    Ok –suppose you walk in on a 14 yr old boy being sodomised anywhere–never mind Penn state.
    Two cases:
    In the first the boy turns his face to you and says in a terrified voice “Please help me”. I would violently attacker his assaulter and alert the authorities as soon as the fight was over (assuming I won). You sound like a man who would do the same.

    But suppose this: same situation but this time the boy says in an angry voice “Piss off mate–can’t you see we’re busy”. What do you do then–decide that the boy is too young to decide that anal intercourse with men is what he wants for his life and rush off to tell the powers that be? Are your ideas on what morals this youth should have superior to his? Is it his life or the states to dispose?.
    You have a daughter. At some point she will make the transition to a sexual, adult woman. It may not take place in a manner or with a person you approve of(no father would be happy to learn that his little girl had given herself to a seedy DJ because he was “famous”). Short of arranging a marriage for her to someone you approve of (and “honour” killing her if she won’t go along) what can you do about it?

    Leave the groping accusations out for the moment. Saville seems to have had sex with a lot of willing adolescent girls. It is unsavory and sordid and technically a crime but it is not a sex crime in the same sense that a brutal rape is a sex crime. The present hysteria is being promoted deliberatly.

  19. To address Ian B’s question:

    First, in law, it is a lesser offence for a 14-year-old to have sex with another 14-year-old than it is for and 18-year-old. This is according to section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act.

    Second, I’m not sure what hegemonic morality is. But if you were to ask my advice on what is right, I’d say that we all owe it to our sexual partners to consider their interests as well as our own. If a girl wants to have sex with a man solely because she’s attracted by his celebrity, he might judge it not in her interests to proceed.

    To put it less formally, a grown-up should ask himself “is this really a good idea”? And if he’s a 60-year-old DJ thinking of having sex with a 14-year-old groupie, the answer is no.

  20. It’s interesting also how now all this has happened, suddenly Savile was a seedy, creepy weirdo, and we all thought that all along, whereas as far as I remember up until about two weeks ago he was a beloved eccentric, philanthropist, nation’s darling, etc etc.

  21. Paul, you didn’t address my question. You asked yourself two diffrent questions and answered them. My question was whether large age gaps are morally different to small age gaps, and if so on what basis?

    However, to address your issue; you seem to be saying that a woman will come to some kind of harm if she has sex with a man for what you consider to be the wrong reason, i.e. because he is a high status celebrity, rather than for some other reason. What is this harm? I appreciate that you did not mention harm yourself, but I presume you are saying this since it is hard to justify morally prohibiting any action which is harmless.

    Suppose a 14 year old girl, let’s call her Jackie, goes to a Hollywood Party and a famous heart-throb leading man is there, let’s call him Marlon Brando, and he takes a shine to her and they have sex. Is this an intrinsically harmful experience for her? If so, why?

  22. “same situation but this time the boy says in an angry voice “Piss off mate–can’t you see we’re busy”. What do you do then–decide that the boy is too young to decide that anal intercourse with men is what he wants for his life and rush off to tell the powers that be?”

    Meanwhile in the real world, the kid looks at you blankly. What do you do? Go onto a web site and defend men who have sex with children, I expect.

    “Leave the groping accusations out for the moment. Saville seems to have had sex with a lot of willing adolescent girls. It is unsavory and sordid and technically a crime but it is not a sex crime in the same sense that a brutal rape is a sex crime. The present hysteria is being promoted deliberatly.”

    Saville was a children’s TV presenter on the publicly-funded national broadcaster and that bastion of morality, the BBC, entrusted by other public institutions with looking after many of these girls (many of them very vulnerable girls), and he molested a lot of them, in many cases, it appears, unwillingly. And you can’t see what the fuss is about?

  23. Meanwhile in the real world, the kid looks at you blankly.

    Apparently, the real world is a zombie movie.

    or would you have kicked the shit out of him […] like I would have done

    Just out of interest, why would you have done that?

  24. IanB: I don’t know what you mean by “intrinsically harmful” either. But I’m confident that there’s a lot less danger of harm if he leaves her alone.

    I’ve never heard an adult woman express regret that she didn’t have under-age sex with much older men.

  25. Tredwell:

    “Go to a website and defend men who have sex with children”

    No I go to a website and defend a man who raised millions to help others and has been accused–you get that bit Tredwell?–the difference between accused/alleged and proven guilty?–it a distinction the shabby society we live increasingly does not care about but there are a few of us left who don’t think people should be destroyed on the basis of trial by tabloid, esp when his accusers are telling some very colourful tales. The one about Saville having the keys to Broadmoor for example. If you wanted to be a molester, Broadmoor, full of mentally ill people judged a danger to society is not a place that springs to mind. But Saville is supposed to have had his own keys and the run of the place. A hospital full of very troubled and potentially violent (and actually violent in many cases) people and he had keys to wander about as he pleased?. He had a room at the hospital, prob because of travel (if he was such a monster why go to such a place at all?–much easier victims and nicer places to victimize them in elsewhere) presumably in a less secure part of the complex. I can believe he had keys to those. But keys to wander around secure wards and molest as he pleased (which is the implication the media want to give)? That seem credible to you Tredwell? It probably does Christ help us all.

  26. Paul, I’m asking you to describe what the harm is! What is it, exactly?

    And-

    I’ve never heard an adult woman express regret that she didn’t have under-age sex with much older men.

    That’s a curious negative-space argument. There are an infinitude of things we’ve all not done that we don’t regret not doing, but that wouldn’t in itself be an argument for prohibiting them.

    Okay, I’ll drag out another anecdote on the age thing. My sister, when she was 19, had a relationship with a man in his 50s, an actor. Lovely chap, but needless to say our parents were not well pleased, even though they liked him as a person. Eventually she finished it because, yes the age gap meant that in the long run it was not really practical. We were very sad when we heard he’d died recently. But when it comes up, she has nothing but fond memories of it, and him; she said once to me that he was the most exactly what she has ever wanted in a man.

    So okay, she wasn’t 14 or 15. She was 19. He was 56. I haven’t heard any other women I can think of express regret that they didn’t screw a man 37 years older than themselves before the were 20. But it’s surely an age gap vast enough to be relevant to this discussion. Was there something morally questionable about it, in your philosophy? Should he have restrained himself because she was a teenage actress wannabee who was naturally impressed by his Shakespearian manner? How do you know when somebody is fucking for the right reasons?

    (Please don’t just fall back into the “that was legal” thing, we’re doing moral philosophy here, not quoting the law at one another).

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “But suppose this: same situation but this time the boy says in an angry voice “Piss off mate–can’t you see we’re busy”. What do you do then–decide that the boy is too young to decide that anal intercourse with men is what he wants for his life and rush off to tell the powers that be?”

    Well yes. Is there any other sane response?

    “Are your ideas on what morals this youth should have superior to his?”

    Yes. That is why we have this thing called the law. We have decided that 14 year olds are not mature enough to make these decisions and the law is the law.

    “Leave the groping accusations out for the moment. Saville seems to have had sex with a lot of willing adolescent girls.”

    Actually I am rather unconvinced this is the case. How many such girls have come forward to make credible claims to this end? How many people saw him doing so?

    21Ian B 0- “It’s interesting also how now all this has happened, suddenly Savile was a seedy, creepy weirdo, and we all thought that all along, whereas as far as I remember up until about two weeks ago he was a beloved eccentric, philanthropist, nation’s darling, etc etc.”

    Well he was a beloved seedy creepy weirdo with strong eccentric habits and a distinct line in philanthropy that made him the nation’s darling. None of these are mutually exclusive.

    23Tredwell – “Saville was a children’s TV presenter on the publicly-funded national broadcaster and that bastion of morality, the BBC, entrusted by other public institutions with looking after many of these girls (many of them very vulnerable girls), and he molested a lot of them, in many cases, it appears, unwillingly.”

    It has been a long time since anyone has called the Beeb a bastion of morality with a straight face. These are the people whose idea of child welfare meant they funded the 7-7 bombers. Nor is it immediately obvious to me that either the BBC or Savile had much of a legal duty of care towards these children.

    However, no matter how creepy he was and we all knew he was fairly creepy, there is a remarkable lack of evidence of wrong doing. People ought to keep that in mind. Because I am starting to think that much of the outrage is based on jealousy that the speaker did not get half as many chances as Jimmy.

  28. First, lets drop the sodomy example. I only picked it because Tredwell mentioned the Penn state situation.

    I can think of another example.
    When I was 14 I had a tremendous crush on Linda Thorson who followed Diana Rigg on the “Avengers” show. If Miss Thorson had, by a miracle, appeared in my life and made the offer (in a nice, comfortable context, not a shop doorway or something ) I would have accepted like a shot. Now along you come with your “law is law”, see us together and rush off to rat us out. She and I are humiliated in the national media, something that will follow us and blight the rest of our lives, she is arrested and put in prison and the social services arrive to try and break up my previously happy family(I would have made sure my parents did not know obviously but the SS won’t bother about that) and put me into care–where I would be in some danger of being sodomised in the shower if accounts of the quality of state “care” are to be believed. Do you think you would have helped me? Or is “The Law” all that matters. OK the “relationship” might not have been so good–my dream girl might have turned out not so dreamy but that is life.

    Alright that is a thought experiment–the jimmy Saville situation is somewhat different but the law is law approach is not enough.

    As for your other points–well now that Saville has been made an instant pariah (there will prob never be shown another “Top of the Pops” repeat with him in it) what woman in her right mind is going to come forward and say she had sex with Saville and it did her no harm or even worse that she enjoyed it. The storm of media shite that would land on her/them would blight the rest of their life.

  29. It has been a long time since anyone has called the Beeb a bastion of morality with a straight face. These are the people whose idea of child welfare meant they funded the 7-7 bombers.

    The BBC funded the 7-7 bombers? What?

  30. And just as Ian B predicted

    Jane Root, controller of BBC2 from 1999-2004, told the Observer there needed to be a “truth and reconciliation commission” into Savile along with perceived sexism in the corporation, and “throughout television” in the 1980s and early 1990s. (BBC)

    and

    There are big questions here for the police. Some wonder if the Met is overdue another “Macpherson moment”, in which it is forced to confront its own institutional sexism the way the Stephen Lawrence case laid bare its racism. It is at least clear that it has enormous work to do to win the trust of women, so that it becomes a first instinct of those who are attacked to report the fact. (Jonathon Freedland)

  31. “Apparently, the real world is a zombie movie.”

    Er, right, blank looks only happen zombie movies, sure.

    “the difference between accused/alleged and proven guilty?”

    That’s a different issue. You seem to be arguing that even if Saville did try to have sex with as many under-age girls as he could, that’s all right. So whether he really did or didn’t do that isn’t relevant to that argument.

    “It has been a long time since anyone has called the Beeb a bastion of morality with a straight face.”

    I didn’t say it with a straight face. Nevertheless that’s how the BBC has long presented itself, and many people see it that way, and that’s a part of why so many people are so upset.

    “Nor is it immediately obvious to me that either the BBC or Savile had much of a legal duty of care towards these children.”

    I didn’t say they had a legal duty of care. But Saville was entrusted with looking after many of these girls, particularly the girls from the reform schools, so of course people are additionally outraged.

    “And just as Ian B predicted
    Jane Root, controller of BBC2 from 1999-2004, told the Observer there needed to be a “truth and reconciliation commission” into Savile along with perceived sexism in the corporation, and “throughout television” in the 1980s and early 1990s. (BBC)”

    A horrible development, I agree. But you can’t seriously think that this sort of shite has arisen just because we haven’t been sufficiently robust in our defence of child molesters?

  32. Er, right, blank looks only happen zombie movies, sure.

    I’m an artist. If a comic script said “couple engaged in anal sex”, if I made a list of facial expressions I would consider depicting them wearing, “blank” would be a very long way down the list. Unless they were the Undead.

    But you can’t seriously think that this sort of shite has arisen just because we haven’t been sufficiently robust in our defence of child molesters?

    It may have a lot to do with allowing a particular campaign movement to lure us all into a fundamental category error of defining sexually mature young adults as minors, and thus as “children” though, which brings us back to what Tim’s initial posts have been about.

    So I hear, in some US states, you are a “minor” in terms of alcohol until you are 21. Thus, if you serve beer at a party attended by 20 year olds, you are “corrupting a minor”. Not so in Britain, of course. Now, there may be a case for denying alcohol to the under-21s. I don’t think so, but others might. But if one then proceeds to considering a bunch of students at a keg party to somebody deliberately plying a five year old with Special Brew, they are in an apples vs. oranges situation.

    But this is why The Reformers deliberately drive up these ages of “minority”. Because from there it is a tiny step to talking about “children”, and lumping together the tiny minority of monsters who would rape infants, with the biologically normal observation that people are sexually mature and have sexual responses and desires well below the age of “majority”, wish to indulge in sex and, due to their physical status (mileage varies of course depending on the individual) may inspire perfectly normal sexual responses in other people. If somebody looks at a five year old and finds them sexually attractie, they’ve got a problem. If they look at a fifteen year old and feel that, they haven’t. The law has the problem.

    A few years ago, Channel 4 ran an ident in which various celebs revealed the age they lost their virginity at (they were just saying numbers, so that you eventually twigged what the statistic was). The majority were below the legal age. At least a signficant fraction, and probably a majority, will gladly cast away their virginity significantly before the legal age. This is not controversial. Does it make any sense at all to categorise them all as “children” being “molested”?

  33. @ Tredwell: “Saville was entrusted with looking after many of these girls”

    How so? Your evidence is?

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