Nobody likes to be conned, which is why the Jimmy Savile scandal has become one of the biggest stories of recent times.
A Metropolitan Police commander nailed the public’s mood on Friday when, minutes after his force and the NSPCC revealed that the one of the UK’s most famous men was also one of its most prolific sex offenders, he proclaimed that Savile had ‘groomed the nation’.
To some this may have seemed a tad melodramatic but it sums up perfectly what a seismic effect this affair has had on society.
There are some out there who are well and truly bored of this story, in fact several colleagues have asked recently whether the public is getting bored with the ever growing litany of lurid allegations and counter scandals that the initial, shocking revelations have spawned.
My view is that rather than simply being the celebrity scandal of 2012 this story will mark a significant turning point in British history.
Whereas the death of Princess Diana, and the unprecedented media meltdown which followed, is widely acknowledged as the event which changed Britain from being the Land of The Stiff Upper Lip to a place where we lay a carpet of flowers for our dead goldfish and weep widely at schmaltzy adverts featuring snowmen, then the Savile Affair has affected the nation profoundly too, although me may not know it yet.
And I don’t mean that we now suspect any slightly washed up, right wing, former public figure of youth of being a nonce (which seems to be in vogue at the moment) but rather that sex abuse victims will now feel their allegations will be believed in future. It is too early to present hard evidence to back this theory up but already 450 people, who before the scandal broke in October could not have thought for a second they would be believed, have come forward to tell the authorities they were abused by the man behind Jim’ll Fix It.
This is a staggering number of victims and while the police and the NSPCC’s bombshell report appeared to be published in unusually double quick time, and it is highly questionable exactly how many of these alleged crimes would lead to Savile being convicted if he had still been alive, but all the same these people came forward, many of whom have not wished to make formal complaints nor give their names, meaning they have nothing to gain.
The fact the Crown Prosecution Service decided against prosecuting Savile while he was alive seems to have strengthened the resolve of the police to believe the stories of those who have kept quiet for so long. It may seem a vain hope but if there is any good to come out of the appalling story of Jimmy Savile then hopefully it will be that we start listening to victims of the worst crime imaginable.