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Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Crimes of Dead People

The crimes of dead people are rarely matters for the police. But the crimes of dead celebrities are things the police are always happy to investigate simply because it is a way to avoid work and enjoy lunches with journalists instead. That is a good enough reason for asking for some better justification than the mere fact that crimes were committed in the past by someone now dead. Only when the crimes of the dead may lead to discovery of crimes of the living are they worth police time.

Newspapers like the crimes of dead people because they can report them without fear of libel writs descending. In the current feeding frenzy over the corpse of Jimmy Savile it is a certainty that false and sexed up claims will be made, just as they were over the corpse of Diana Princess of Wales. Newspapers are even harder to sell now and so we should be even more cautious when we read (or, in my case, don't read) ever more lurid claims.

Historians can safely be left to investigate the crimes of very long dead people.

Where does the work of newspapers end and the work of historians begin? It simply depends on the forgetfulness of the living.

You will say that I neglect the fact that there are often living victims of dead people's crimes who feel they have had no justice and no redress. And sometimes simply, no money out of it.

I have to say that my general feeling is this. If the victims think they can gain something from police investigations or some quasi-judicial process which tries and condemns, they are looking in the wrong place. Neither the police or courts are sensitive to human suffering, nor are they designed to be.

Likewise, any victim who thinks that some tabloid newspaper is going to help them, in any way other than financially, will be fairly rapidly disillusioned. Newspapers use people and cast them aside when their usefulness reaches its use by date. Newspapers are not good friends.

So I don't think Justice for the Victims is served by newspaper frenzy designed to boost circulation or by police enquiries conducted by officers looking for things to leak to the press. Justice for Victims probably requires quiet meetings in small groups, with appropriate facilitators and recorders, and careful public statements at the end of it all. And if those statements are the truth and nothing but the truth, they will serve the victims' need for justice much better than a headline which is here today and forgotten tomorrow.

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