Wednesday, 9 April 2014

If Operation Yewtree police won’t give the names of those they’ve arrested, why give their ages?

A man was arrested in North London yesterday as part of the Operation Yewtree investigations into historical sexual offences. They didn’t give his name, but they told us that he was 73 years old and that his alleged offences (whatever they might be) have nothing to do with Jimmy Savile. As a result, Twitter exploded with speculation as to his identity, with three prominent 73-year old British “entertainers” being brazenly named in a whole series of tweets.

I don’t normally bother searching out this sort of thing (honestly!), but several tweets of this nature appeared in my timeline. To be fair, there were a number of responses from tweeters suggesting that dragging well-loved household names through the mud on the basis of no evidence whatsoever was a reckless and rather shoddy thing to do (as well as being illegal, of course) – and I tend to agree. I don’t know what the rules are (and a Google search didn’t yield a coherent answer), but it left me wondering what the point is of releasing the suspect’s age without fully identifiying him. Is it to clear every male showbusiness type who isn’t 73 of suspicion? What about the reputations of all the entirely innocent 73-year old entertainers (there's a lot of them) who find their names being bandied about on social media as a result of this policy?

Is it done in order to prevent the investigation of potentially legitimate allegations against famous people being slowed down by a slew of false allegations by nutters and malcontents? Then why have some suspects been named immediately after being arrested for the first time? Or was that the result of rogue police officers tipping the wink to reporters?

All a bit of a mess, I’d say.

On the other hand, I’m sure many of us have grown frustrated over the years with “minors” arrested for serious criminal acts not being named “for legal reasons”. If some young thug is charged with assault, rape or murder, I can’t see any good reason for affording him or his family any protection whatsoever.

No doubt we’ll eventually find out who was arrested yesterday morning, at which point a lot of embarrassed, nervous, well-known 73-year olds can once more pop down to the corner shop without fear of hearing the words “nonce” or “beast” whispered behind their backs (or, perhaps, to their faces).

If anyone knows what the point of this selective secrecy is, please let me know.

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