Dear Mr Finkelstein
Let's look at your article again and do an experiment. In place of the words "Savile" and "Cyril Smith", put "Hitler" and "Stalin", or vice versa, if you prefer. Now, let's see how it reads.
By dying, Adolf Hitler both escaped justice and was denied justice. He can no longer be punished for what he is accused of doing, but he cannot refute the accusations either.
I fear that in our anxiety to put right the mistakes that were made during the lifetimes of people like Hitler, and in our justifiable anger on behalf of victims, we may begin to erode something else that really matters. We may begin to erode the difference between historical accounts and criminal proceedings. We may start to prosecute dead people and find them guilty when they fail to enter a plea.
If Joseph Stalin committed these crimes then he is a monster. But I am still attached to that vital word “if”.
Do you still like the sound of it? It feels uncomfortable, doesn't it? It does to me. It also sounds ridiculous, because in spite of neither Stalin or Hitler being tried as war criminals, we all know what happened, don't we?
The thing is, there are times when history can be allowed to judge, faced with overwhelming evidence. I believe that is how most of history is written. I don't think a lot of people in power throughout history have been put on trial for atrocities they have committed. But few people feel the need to defend their reputations. Savile and Smith were people in power. With a bit of luck, just how powerful they were, and how powerful their friends were, will come out.
The evidence against Savile and Smith amounts to a tidal wave. Hundreds of victims, Mr Finkelstein, probably the tip of the iceberg. Allegations shelved several times for reasons that can't be explained. Corroborated evidence ignored. Files of evidence carried away by MI5. Where in your article did you discuss these matters? Did I blink and miss it?
You are concerned with the due course of justice. So am I. The difference between yourself and the vast majority of victims of child sexual abuse, is that we have lost all faith in the justice system. In your article, you are asking us to accept as gospel fact that the due process of law was followed in the cases of Savile and Smith, and that that's the reason why there were no prosecutions! But the stench of corruption is so rank, you'd have to wear a nose peg not to smell it.
The victims of child sexual abuse have so little faith in the justice system, that only a tiny minority try to press charges. And when they do, only about 10% of cases end in conviction. One of these convictions was reported today. A man was sentenced to community service for sexual abuse of an eight year old. A victim of Savile came out on Twitter yesterday to say that she had not yet been properly interviewed by the police, just a brief visit. She has witnessed children being murdered. Yet Yewtree are saying the investigation has been concluded. This is the justice system you ask us to have faith in.
You say that you don't want to cause distress to victims. You have. I'll tell you how. When I was sexually abused throughout my childhood, it caused injury. When I went to the police and they ignored me, it added insult to injury. When people like yourself believe it's more important to defend the reputations of perpetrators than discuss the coverup of child abuse cases, so glaringly obvious, there is no longer a word in the English language to describe the pain this causes me.
A word about language you use in your article. Regarding Smith, you said:
" It was felt that there was not a reasonable chance of conviction because the accusations were without corroboration and some of the men would not make good witnesses."
"without corroboration" - Eight victims came forward. How do you define corroboration?
"would not make good witnesses" - Might it be interesting to discuss why the CPS made this claim instead of accepting it at face value? If they were such bad witnesses, why did MI5 feel it necessary to confiscate the evidence they gave?
What would make for a really interesting article, I think, is how victims are systematically discredited as "bad witnesses" because they are so physically and mentally broken by the abuse. I thinks this adds credibility to the claims of victims, not the opposite. I suffer from PTSD and depression as a result of abuse. I know what I'm talking about.
According to the NCPCC, one in six children are sexually abused. Children in this country, and around the world, are being sacrificed. There is no justice for them, no justice for us the adult survivors. It's happening in plain sight. Those in power and people on the ground are complicit or they ignore it. It's too uncomfortable to deal with, or to dangerous to confront. In terms of history, it sounds so familiar to me, it sends a chill down my spine.
@Mrs M Thank you for your offer. Should you wish to talk to me about your story, of course I should be grateful to be told about it. The is, I am sure, much I could learn. But I must emphasise that my point does not involve any denial of the seriousness of abuse, or of its widespread nature, or of the need, because of the nature of the offence to use evidence that hasn't been corroborated. It is about people being tried when dead. Overwhelming evidence needs testing before it can be considered reliable evidence.