Being in England with time to read the newspapers between hospital visiting hours reminds you what a weird place it has become.
Yesterday several court cases kicked off, featuring old age pensioners being variously accused of sordid offences from indecent assault to rape of girls of varying ages. Most of the alleged crimes took place decades ago. We’re talking about Rolf Harris, 83, the veteran Australian entertainer, pleading not guilty to a string of child sex abuse charges dating back to the 1960s.
Then there’s Britain’s Coronation Street soap star William Roache who denies two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967 and five indecent assaults on four girls in the mid to late 1960s.
Of course such crimes are egregious, but what prompts a “victim” to suddenly act now about something that happened fifty years ago?
Dave Lee Travis – “DLT”
The third one is BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis, aged 68. When I was a teenager, he was regular on radio and fronted the weekly Top of the Pops TV hit parade. The court heard he indecently assaulted a 19-year-old woman during a recording of the music show, the hottest thing on British TV in those days. He allegedly carried out a series of assaults which were "sexual in nature" while working as a disc jockey, acting in pantomimes and even at the opening of a hospital radio station, London's Southwark Crown Court was told, according to the Daily Telegraph report. He is accused of assaulting 11 women, one of whom was 15 at the time of the alleged offence, many, many years ago.
During a recording?
Last night’s BBC television news showed him talking on air and said he was allegedly groping this lady as the piece was being firmed. The 19-year-old had travelled to the show with a friend and alleges DLT put his hand up her skirt to "touch her bum". This was in the 1970s.
When we were young the teen magazines were full of gushing stories of girls who had made it to be among the studio audience on Top of the Pops and they were, as we used to say, well and truly up for it when they got there. Many were groupies. Getting as close as possible to a male celebrity was their goal and they would then brag about it. If iphones and Facebook had been around then, we would probably be subjected to boasts about every grope and grunt. These young ladies were usually provocatively dressed and caked in make up. Even the 15-year-olds looked much older and photo ID didn’t exist. Sorry, but how was DLT to know which ones were 18 among a gaggle of girls throwing themselves at him?
OK, maybe not all were in this bracket. Prosecuting, Miranda Moore QC showed the jury the BHBC clip, saying the girl’s friend "remembers her being angry and upset and saying this defendant had put his hand up her skirt", the court heard. Moore added: "She was embarrassed and thought no-one would believe her." So why does she think a jury will believe her now?
Another girl said DLT offered her a lift to Charing Cross station after work in his yellow Pontiac. He gave her a lift two or three times. About a week after the last lift, he invited the alleged victim into a "continuity suite" to choose a song, the jury was told. He asked if she wanted to dance and pressed his groin against her, Moore said. The alleged victim said she felt uncomfortable, Moore said. "She told him to stop and he grabbed her and put the red light on." Moore explained that the red light signalled a live broadcast. "He appeared to her to be getting angry," Moore said. "He put his hand up her skirt, going into her knickers."
Beware known perverts
DLT, as he is known to the nation, has said he did not "remember at all" the woman's name, he said he never gave lifts to someone at "her level", and the alleged incident did not happen, Moore said.
I am not excusing DLT for one moment, if he did it. But doesn’t the woman – and yes she was 18, legally adult – bear any responsibility here? If I had recounted this story to my mother when I was 18 she would have looked at me in disbelief and said “Why on earth did you get in a car alone with him in the first place?” As for groping at work, if he did, well every employee soon learns about the office pervert and ensures she’s never alone with him. Never give him the opportunity and if he transgresses, most women work out how to teach the office groper a lesson without it becoming a federal case.
DLT is charged with indecent assaults dating back to between 1976 and 2003, and one count of sexual assault in 2008. He denies all the charges. He was arrested under Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree, which was prompted by abuse allegations against the late Jimmy Savile. DLT is reported as saying these women are now jumping on the bandwagon. While in no way condoning or excusing sexual assault, you do have to wonder. If their distress was so great, how come it has taken them all so long to complain?