‘Operation Yewtree is a juggernaut, out of control’
When Barbara Hewson made stinging criticisms on spiked about the post-Savile witch hunt, there was a media storm. Now, she responds.
When Barbara Hewson made some stinging criticisms of Operation Yewtree on spiked earlier this month, there was media outrage. The NSPCC called on her to remove her article and she was denounced in many newspapers (while being defended by some commentators). Now, in the new issue of spiked plus she answers spiked readers’ questions about her views on Yewtree, the age of consent and today’s censorious climate.
You suggest that the offences for which Stuart Hall pleaded guilty were ‘nothing like serious crime’. There is, however, an argument that many people, including judges as reflected in modern sentencing guidelines, think that sexual assault involving children is very serious. Should we think it serious? Luke Gittos, UK
When those alleged incidents occurred, indecent assaults counted as misdemeanors, as opposed to felonies like rape. So there is a valid legal distinction. We don’t know the full facts of the offences to which Mr Hall has pleaded guilty. But a serial groper – engaging in what, in days gone by, would be called ‘interference’ – is not a serial rapist. A person sentenced for an historic offence cannot be given a more severe sentence than would be applicable at the date of the offence. I suspect that in days gone by, judges would regard even child victims as rather more robust and resilient than now, when they are seen as inherently vulnerable and fragile. There is a danger that judges may feel under populist pressure to judge the past by today’s standards. That would be wrong in principle…
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