Yesterday, on Twitter, ‘child protection expert’* Mark Williams-Thomas named a celebrity who was being interviewed under caution by police as part of Operation Yewtree. In a curious construction, he said that it was “part of
#Savile other #sexual offences”. His tweet was retweeted extensively.
This morning, he told his followers to “[r]emember if you are going to RT tweets they may be relevant to a certain time & may not be the same hours later”. It might have helped his followers assess the relevance of the tweet if he had subsequently added that the celebrity in question had been released without charge. If I said that Mark Williams-Thomas went on trial at Chichester Crown Court in June 2003 for blackmail, I would be stating nothing other than a fact. However, it would be highly irresponsible of me not to add that Williams-Thomas was acquitted.
No news outlets named the man, referring only to a man in his 80s from Berkshire. The main source for the identification of the celebrity is Mark Williams-Thomas, and many unpleasant, prejudiced comments about the personality have resulted, some Twitter users clearly having learned absolutely nothing from the whole McAlpine episode.
There is also another problematic dimension. There is no suggestion anywhere that the interview concerned child abuse offences. Indeed, official sources stress that there is no connection between these allegations and the Savile business. In all of the coverage of Dave Lee Travis’ recent visit to a police station that I saw, only Damon Green’s report on ITV News made absolutely clear that the accusations came from women who were adults at the time of the alleged incidents. However, when a ‘child protection expert’ names a celebrity who has been interviewed by police as “part of
#Savile other #sexual offences”, how many people are going to make that leap of assumption and lump this person in with Savile? Today’s Daily Mirror front page headline, “Savile cops quiz kids presenter”, is a nasty piece of innuendo. The effect of that five word statement is potentially far more than the sum of its parts.
* Please note that I am not putting this in quotes to pour scorn on the description. I am merely making it clear that I am quoting from Williams-Thomas’ own Twitter biography.