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Sunday , May 5 , 2013
 
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The long arm of the law

Something strange is going on in England in relation to sexual offences. While in India it might seem men are allowed to get away with rape and sexual assault almost as part of the culture of the country, the opposite is happening in Britain. Men virtually with one foot in the grave are being brought to book for offences that occurred half a century ago.

At times it might seem that there is a witch hunt going on, judging by the alacrity with which police are pursuing once famous male celebrities. This has all been triggered by the case of the late BBC disc jockey Jimmy Savile, who died in October 2011, aged 84. Now, it is said he was the greatest British paedophile of all time, using his position as a very popular BBC personality to clock up hundreds of offences over a 40-year period.

But in case anyone feels sympathy for the elderly men who are being arrested for past crimes, a senior policeman has urged people not to forget the women who have suffered silently for years.

“They have lived with what happened for a long period of time and it cannot have been easy for them to come forward, especially as when they did so, they did not know there were others who had also suffered abuse,” commented detective chief inspector Neil Esseen.

He has been involved in investigating 83-year-old veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall who used to present a show called It’s a Knockout.

When first charged, Hall dismissed the allegations as “pernicious, callous, cruel and above all spurious”.

But last week in Preston Crown Court, Hall admitted indecently assaulting 13 girls, the youngest aged just nine.

Hall’s lawyer, Crispin Aylett QC, told the court that his client “is only too aware his disgrace is complete”.

Aylett said Hall’s guilty pleas were the best possible mitigation and pointed out: “The most recent offence took place in 1986, that is 27 years ago. The first offence in 1968 is almost half a century ago. The defendant is now 83 years of age and of otherwise exemplary character, and as might be imagined this investigation has come as an especially bitter blow at this stage of his life.”

Hall, who will return to court for sentencing on June 17, was described by Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West, as an “opportunistic predator”.

He added: “Whether in public or private, Hall would first approach under friendly pretences and then bide his time until the victim was isolated. He can only be described as an opportunistic predator.”

Sex arrests

Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty but many other personalities from the world of show business have been either charged with sex offences or questioned about their past. The list has been growing by the week.

Actor Bill Roache has been charged with two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.

Roache, now 81, has been playing a character called Kevin Barlow in Coronation Street, the nation’s favourite serial since 1960, making him the world’s longest serving soap actor.

An ITV spokesman said: “Bill Roache will not be appearing in Coronation Street until legal proceedings are concluded.”

Since I know and like the PR guru Max Clifford, who became a familiar name in India, I hope he will be found innocent. The 70-year-old has been charged with 11 historic counts of indecent assault against teenage girls, aged from 14 to 19 between 1966 and 1985.

Others among the dozen who have been questioned over allegations of sexual offences include comedian Freddie Starr, 70, and Australia-born artist and presenter Rolf Harris, 83.

Other high-profile names who were questioned include DJ Dave Lee Travis and comedian Jim Davidson — who all deny any wrongdoing. Gary Glitter, 69, whose real name is Paul Gadd, who was also arrested, has not yet made a statement.

Clifford, who says he will clear his name, said: “The allegations in respect of which I have been charged are completely false... Nevertheless a decision has been taken to charge me with 11 offences involving seven women, the most recent of which is 28 years ago and the oldest 47 years ago. I have never indecently assaulted anyone in my life.”

Caste divide

In all the years that I have lived in Britain, I have not once witnessed an instance of discrimination on the grounds of caste.

Of course, I readily admit that does not mean to say such discrimination doesn’t exist. However, many fear that introducing legislation to outlaw caste discrimination as part of the Equality Act — as the Dalit lobby is demanding — may do more harm than good. The worry is it may inject poison into the Hindu population where previously there was none.

The government was initially not too keen but has changed its mind after the Lords voted twice in favour of the legislation.

But among second generation Indians — and their proportion is growing all the time — caste is not an issue at all.

Turmeric trick

Veteran actor Sir Michael Caine, 80, has revealed that taking turmeric tablets for 30 years has helped him retain his memory.

“It is like a computer — I remember everything,” he claims.

Caine, whose wife Shakira is a former Guyanese beauty queen, told Hollywood chat show host Larry King backstage after a fundraising event for Alzheimer’s research: “I am married to an Indian lady and have learned about Indian culture... and one of the things they don’t get is Alzheimer’s. They eat a great deal of turmeric in their food.”

Mind you, Caine has done so many films that he may have forgotten his credits include Zulu, The Ipcress File, Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter and The Man Who Would Be King.

Carmen curry

June 9 will see a currified version of the classic opera Carmen live on BBC 3 from Bradford’s City Park, with a leading role for Bollywood actor Abhay Deol, 37.

What the French composer Georges Bizet would have made of this version must remain a matter for speculation but the title role in this Spanish tale of lust, revenge and murder has gone to Preeya Kalidas, who once played the lead in Bombay Dreams.

“Bollywood Carmen really does have something for everyone,” says Preeya.

Tittle tattle

A headline in the London Evening Standard last week read: “Parents can embarrass you anytime in life, as Priti Patel has learned.”

The background to this story is that Priti Patel, 41, Tory MP for Witham in Essex, suddenly discovered her father Sushil Kantibhai Patel standing in Hertfordshire in last Thursday’s local government elections for the opposition United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) which is threatening the Tories.

He announced he was stepping down but his name remained on the ballot paper. He came more than 1,200 votes behind the Conservatives but ahead of Labour and Liberal Democrats.

It’s like daughter and father representing Trinamul and CPM.

“Priti Patel might want to cross a Father’s Day card off her shopping list,” the Standard suggested.