NA IMPRENSA INTERNACIONAL >
A curious incident of the cops in the night
The Leveson inquiry into British press culture and the media’s relationship with those in authority reports on Thursday.
I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes on the 29th day of November. The rains were beating down; much of the nation was under water. But the flat in Baker Street was warm with the fug of Holmes’s pipe filling the air. The newspapers were full of the Leveson affair. An appeal court judge, Lord Justice Leveson had been asked to lead an inquiry into a criminal network held responsible for many of society’s ills.
As lurid tales emerged, society was gripped with reports of the most scandalous behaviour by the newspapers; telephone hacking, bribery and serious discourtesy to Hugh Grant. Yet Holmes remained undiverted. I challenged him as to his lack of interest. The great detective flashed a look of contempt.
“Oh Watson, I dare say it will winkle out a few reprobates but it has not got to the heart of the matter. Even now, those most at fault are evading its tentacles.”
“You mean Murdoch.”
He laughed. “No, no, no, Watson.”
“You don’t mean … Moriarty?”
“No, Watson, the Napoleon of crime is long retired, although I believe he writes for the Daily Mail under the name Amanda Platell.”
“You surely don’t believe the media is wrongly accused.”
“Oh, far from it. They will all be rightly punished. Society will appoint another little committee and congratulate itself on a job well done. Meanwhile … ”
“You believe there is more?”
With a burst of energy, Holmes sprang to his feet, scattering papers across the room. He brandished a cutting at me. I recognised it as a report of a child abuse case that had also drawn much comment in the press. “Watson, can you not see what is in front of your face?”
“The Savile case?” I said. “You see a link between these matters?”
It was widely known that Savile, a well-known public performer who moved in the highest circles and had even been honoured by the Queen, was, in fact, a foul sexual predator and corruptor of youth. Much obloquy had fallen upon his employers, the BBC, over the affair. Since Savile was now dead, public anger had turned towards the BBC.
“You do not believe the Beeb to be responsible?”
“They were negligent, to be sure,” he intoned, shooting up another syringe of morphine, “but responsibility lies elsewhere. And here … ”. He held another cutting; a report of similar abuse by an MP.
“Holmes, you have me at a loss.”
“Watson, let us return to the matter of the phone-hacking. What do we know of events when it was first revealed that the press were using the services of the Baker Street irregulars?”
“There was a police inquiry. Two men were imprisoned.”
“And then the inquiry stopped. Other victims were not told of the crimes against them and the perpetrators went unpunished. Watson, have you not been struck by the curious incident of the police at that right time.”
“The police did nothing.”
“That,” he remarked curtly, “is the curious incident.”
“But Holmes … ”
“And the Savile affair; or the late MP; who failed to discover their crimes; who ignored witnesses?”
“Or Hillsborough; who conspired to subvert the truth when 96 football fans die at a match? When an innocent man is shot dead by officers, who attempts to cover it up with misleading claims on what happened? Ah yes, Watson, at the heart of so much lies one common thread – the venality, incompetence, deceit and in some cases criminality of our police. Those we pay to uphold the law have failed us in so many ways and yet evade reform.”
“But Savile was the true criminal, Holmes. And the media behaved intolerably by phone-hacking.”
“And they must be punished. But had the police done their jobs these scandals might not have taken root.”
“Have you talked to Lestrade?”
“Alas, the good inspector writes a twice weekly column for the Sketch.”
“Then no good will come of this.”
“Well, we may get statutory regulation of the press.”
“But Holmes, this won’t solve the deeper problem.”
The celebrated detective pulled on his gown and headed downstairs. “No, but I can start spending the night with Mrs Hudson again.”
“Oh and Watson,” he called from the stairs, “call my dealer, would you. I’m completely out of smack.”