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Jailing old celebrities is not a challenge to our current culture

4 July 2014

8:45 AM

4 July 2014

8:45 AM

‘A culture changes by example and a licentious old man being found guilty will help do that,’ says a leader in the Times. Perhaps, but I would be much more impressed if it were a licentious younger man.

We can all moralise away in retrospect about what the BBC and others allowed Rolf Harris CBE or Sir James Savile to get away with. It is easy to attack them when they are old or dead. You still very rarely hear of sex charges against current performers.

I would not dream of suggesting that Russell Brand is a sex criminal, but we know, from his own account, that he has slept with a great many women. He even, with Jonathan Ross, telephoned the elderly actor Andrew Sachs, and they left a message on his answering machine boasting of how Brand had slept with his granddaughter. The BBC broadcast this as comedy. If the wheel of celebrity fortune ever went against Brand, would it be surprising if some of the women who have slept with him decided to accuse him of ‘inappropriate’ acts?

Would the BBC then find the whole thing less funny? I am not saying that Rolf Harris is innocent — I have faith in juries — but I am saying that sexual accusations against old celebrities are not a challenge to the current culture, but an attack on those whose power has waned.

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes in this week’s Spectator.

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