Freddie Starr Was Eaten Alive by British Injustice

Freddie Starr and Reg Wilson at the GB V Young...

Freddie Starr in 1976 with Reg Wilson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As yet another Operation Yewtree investigation of a celebrity collapses, isn’t it time for some one from the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to be held to account?

When Freddie Starr shambled before the cameras, a stumbling, shaking shadow of the man who first denied the accusations against him a year and a half ago, mouthing at the empty air, it was hard to escape the feeling that what we were witnessing was a grotesque failure of British justice.

Mr Starr has been publicly vilified. He has been paraded before the media as a suspect in one of the most hated of crimes.

He has been barred from being alone with his own daughter.

He has been unable to work, or to live out his retirement in peace. He has become a professional defendant.

And now, after a year and a half of this, the CPS says there is “insufficient evidence” to take before a court.

There was enough evidence, it seems, for him to be publicly identified.

There was enough evidence for him to be thrown to the wolves of Fleet Street, and his reputation dragged through the dirt.

There was enough evidence for social services to come bursting into his home and tell him he couldn’t see his own daughter alone any more.

But there isn’t enough evidence to convict Mr Starr in a court of law.

There was enough evidence for the police who failed to uncover the crimes of Jimmy Savile, eager for a celebrity suspect, to arrest him not once but four times, and to hound him towards an early grave.

There was enough evidence for tabloid newspapers hungry for tales of wrongdoing to feast on.

There was enough evidence for quality newspapers searching for a sinner to sermonize on.

But there isn’t enough evidence to convict Mr Starr in a court of law.

I never much cared for Freddie Starr. His style of comedy isn’t really to my taste, and I used to find his public persona brash and unappealing. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Freddie Starr is the victim of an injustice. He has been denied a fair trial.

He’s been given a trial alright, it just wasn’t a fair one. It was a trial by public opinion, by tabloid newspapers, by innuendo.

It was whipped up by the police’s decision to arrest him and re-arrest him and keep on re-arresting him, and to keep him on bail for such an extraordinary length of time, while the whispering and muttering went on.

And, it was clear from the wreckage of a man who appeared before the cameras this week, he has suffered terrible punishment – without ever being found guilty.

If the Crown Prosecution Service believes Mr Starr has committed a crime, then they should put him on trial. Otherwise, they should clear his name.

But the CPS prefers to hide behind the explanation that “the available evidence does not offer a realistic prospect of conviction”.

It’s not about “realistic prospects of conviction”. It’s about justice, and the right to a fair hearing. It’s about the right to be presumed innocent until you’re found guilty in a court of law.

It got worse. Baljit Ubhey, the chief crown prosecutor of CPS London, went on to say “In relation to one further complainant, we have decided that although there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, according to the code for crown prosecutors, a prosecution would not be in the public interest.”

What possible public interest can such a statement serve? It’s not for Mr Ubhey to hedge his bets. A man’s reputation is at stake. Justice itself is at stake.

I don’t see how any of this is supposed to help the victims of sexual assaults. When a victim of a real sexual assault, one that actually happened, sees a celebrity investigated for eighteen months, only for the case never to come to court, will that make him or her more likely to come forward?

Will it make victims believe they will get justice?

Those in charge of Operation Yewtree have been celebrating their first conviction, of Max Clifford. But for me the abiding image is not Clifford posing defiantly for the cameras before he was sent down. It is Freddie Starr, the shambling ghost at the feast, victim of a great British injustice.

This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post UK Blog on 9 May 2014

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