Action Before Scandal: The Importance of Consistent Justice

Home Affairs
Friday, November 9, 2012
Ben Harris-Quinney


The recent exposure of Jimmy Savile’s sordid past has fostered a much deeper analysis of sex and abuse scandals in British society, which reflects the bizarre nature in which justice is still pursued in the United Kingdom.

The pursuit of justice occurs in flurries, thrust by public opinion and driven by the media, rather than by the stable consistency on which the rule of law should be based. The culture of MPs supplementing their income with expenses claims was an accepted and widely known practice for years in Parliament before it was questioned by an errant American journalist.

The problem was systemic, and really related to the fact that MPs receive a fraction of the necessary salary concurrent with their position. It was, however, blamed on a sudden an inexplicable wave of opportunism and criminality among Parliamentarians and addressed as such.

The recent scandals over phone hacking and leaking to the media were equally met by politicians with faux surprise, who were reticent to blame a media whose culture had become too base and reliant on bad practice in which they themselves had complicity, preferring to level the blame at a few bad eggs.

The most significant problem in both cases was that no one saw either scandal coming, or none had the courage to act, even when problematic issues surrounding both scandals should have been (and were) obvious to  the most junior researchers working in and around Parliament.

Whilst it should be the role of the media to expose individual misdeeds by the now relatively rare form of investigative journalism, it must be the role of leaders, legislators and prosecutors to address the heart of the problem, rather than the heart of the scandal, and preferably before it becomes a national disgrace.

David Cameron’s announcement that he is personally requesting an inquiry into sexual abuse in Welsh children’s homes is not unwelcomed, but it is a mere continuation of an uneven, and after the fact approach, to the pursuit of truth and justice.

There has long been a problem in the Conservative Party in the general culture and attitude towards sexual behaviour and that problem is really more endemic of the British establishment as a whole.

Rumours of paedophile rings operating close to Parliament, a point Tom Watson raised in his question to the Prime Minister in the House last month, are not new.  They do not only relate to a single issue in Wales, sadly nor should they be surprising to anyone who has experience of life in Westminster over a number of years.

I have personally witnessed senior members of several political parties, including the Conservative Party, engage in behaviour extremely unbefitting of figures of authority and public respect, behaviour that would I am sure have a greatly negative effect on those concerned had it occurred in the public domain. This behaviour is not solely relevant to a few bad apples; it has unfortunately become a significant part of the social culture of a political party.

Issues surrounding the sexual behaviour of members of parliament and party employees are not limited to the accusations levelled at a minister at a Welsh children’s home 30 years ago. Though that issue must be investigated thoroughly, if senior members of the Government and Conservative Party do not undertake a full investigation to cover the sexual behaviour of members of high office currently and over the last 30 years at a minimum, then scandals relating to this culture of behaviour will increasingly come out, the behaviour will continue, and the damage done to our politics will be un-repairable. 

Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman

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