As far as having a bad week goes, this one has been the worst of their lives for Andy Coulson, Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile. Well, not for Jimmy Savile as he has been dead for almost three years, but his name and memory have once again been tossed into the limelight of disgrace, as a result of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Yewtree_ investigation and his friend, Rolf Harris’s recent conviction and sentence for child sexual assault. Andy Coulson and Rolf Harris however, have to contend with an embarrassingly steep fall from grace occasioned by scandals unprecedented in British history, which seem extremely difficult for them to ever be able to live down. It is not only because the nature of their crimes are particularly heinous that makes this an issue worthy of endless commentary, it is the position they hold (or held) in British society and the trust reposed in them by virtue of that position that has shocked the UK and indeed the world.
To get a better understanding of their crimes, it is important to get an insight into their individual history as well as the events that have led to their current predicament.
Andrew Edward Coulson (Andy Coulson) is an English journalist and political strategist. Coulson replaced Rebekah Brooks as editor of the News of the World in 2003 until his resignation in 2007 following the conviction of one of the newspaper’s reporters in relation to illegal phone-hacking. On 21st July, 2009 Coulson appeared in front of House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and denied any knowledge of the phone hacking scandal, saying “my instructions to the staff were clear- we did not use subterfuge of any kind unless there was a clear public interest in doing so. They were to work within the PCC code at all times.”_ He subsequently joined David Cameron’s personnel on 11th May, 2010 as Downing Street Director of Communications, until announcing his resignation on 21st January, 2011 because of continued media coverage of the phone hacking affair.__ After David Cameron had appointed him as Director of Communications, Coulson continued to be subject to allegations that he was aware of the phone hacking scandal while serving as the editor of News of the World.
Coulson was a witness in HM Advocate V. Sheridan and Sheridan, where he denied under oath that he had any knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World, or that he knew Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective at the center of the controversy._
Coulson was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Service on 8th July, 2011 in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking._ He was detained and charged with perjury by Strathclyde Police on 30th May, 2012 in relation to evidence he had given in the appeal hearing of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan in 2010._
On 24th July, 2012 Coulson was charged along with seven others for “conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006.” Coulson’s trial over phone hacking claims started in October 2013._ In June 2014 Coulson was found guilty of one charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails and will face a retrial, together with News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman, after the jury failed to agree on a verdict on two other charges of conspiring to cause misconduct in public office in relation to the alleged purchase of confidential royal phone directories in 2005 from a palace police officer._
What makes Coulson’s case all the more disturbing is the fact that despite his rather murky past, most of which David Cameron was cautioned about but chose to ignore, he was allowed unrestricted access to Top Secret material by virtue of his position as Communications Director. The phone hacking scandal has raised a lot of questions about the close relationship between the press and the police, especially when it came to light that most of the phone numbers that fell into the hands of News of the World’s journalists were sourced by and in conjunction with individuals in law enforcement.
The Prime Minister hasn’t escaped criticism as well, with his critics accusing him of having a close relationship with the News of the World owner, Rupert Murdoch. Most of the accusations stem from the fact that he has on numerous occasions been seen at the annual soirées organized by News of the World and his close association with former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks. In July 2011, the Mail on Sunday alleged that Cameron had been about to appoint the BBC’s Guto Harri as his Director of Communications, but was persuaded by Rebekah Brooks to appoint Coulson instead. The paper quoted “an individual intimately involved in Mr. Coulson’s recruitment as saying ‘Rebekah indicated that the job should go to Andy.’ David Cameron was told that his choice of who would be his new Communications Director should be someone acceptable to News International (parent company and publisher of News of the World). The company was also desperate to find something for Andy after he took the rap when the phone hacking first became an issue._
As a result of the fallout from the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry was set up to look into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. It was chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, who held a series of public hearings throughout 2011 and 2012. The Inquiry published the Leveson Report in November 2012, which reviewed the general culture and ethics of the British media and made recommendations for a new, independent body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission._
Despite what has been perceived as David Cameron’s serious lapse of judgment in appointing an individual with a shady past to the hallowed position of Communications Director, he was humble enough to accept responsibility for his mistake and he issued an apology to the British public when Coulson was convicted on the 1st of July 2014. Andy Coulson was sentenced to 18 months in jail on the 4th of July, 2014. Talk about swift justice!
For this act alone David Cameron has my undying admiration and respect, as we all know how his Nigerian counterpart never considers himself fallible enough to make a mistake which requires a public apology. His Special Assistant on New Media, Reno Omokri, (or is it Wendell Simlin?) was once caught using a false identity to launch a despicable smear campaign linking the upsurge in killings in the North East to the suspension of the former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
I understand that the job of the Special Assistant or Presidential aide is to make the boss look good by spreading propaganda to whitewash the boss’s mistakes. However, there should be a limit to how low one will stoop to do so. Using the murder of innocent kids as a means of smearing the name of an opponent just hours after they have been murdered is in my opinion far worse than phone hacking. We are yet to hear of Mr. Omokri’s removal from his post, much less an apology from the President or Mr. Omokri himself.
Rolf Harris is an Australian born, British based entertainer. He is a musician, songwriter, composer, painter and former television personality. During the 1960’s Harris became a popular television personality presenting shows and various programs about art. In 2005 he painted an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. This accomplishment cemented his reputation as a super celebrity among British celebrities.
In 2013 Harris was arrested and charged with twelve counts of indecent assault and four of possessing indecent images of a child. His trial began on 6th May, 2014. On 30th June, 2014, Harris was found guilty of all twelve charges of indecent assault. He was sentenced to five years and nine months for 12 counts of indecent assault on the 4th of July 2014.
Sir James Wilson Vincent “Jimmy” Savile was an English DJ, television presenter, media personality and charity fundraiser. He was the first and the last presenter of the long running BBC music chart show Top of the Pops, and he raised an estimated £40 million for charities.
In October 2012, almost a year after his death, an ITV documentary examined claims of sexual abuse by Savile and led to extensive media coverage, which triggered a criminal investigation leading the police to believe he was a predatory sex offender, and may have been one of Britain’s most prolific sexual offenders. The National Health Service (NHS) also looked into allegations that Savile had sexually assaulted patients in about 8 or more hospitals where he volunteered as a porter.
Ironically, Harris and Savile were best of friends during the latter’s lifetime. They have been variously described as “birds of a feather” due to their friendship and shared status as television personalities. However, with the revelation that they were both sexual predators the term “birds of a feather” has taken a whole new meaning in relation to the pair.
Harris and Savile both volunteered at Broadmoor Psychiatric hospital where they are alleged to have exploited their celebrity status to watch as female patients were made to strip, while Savile in particular is alleged to have committed sexual assaults against staff and patients.
Both have received a number of awards and honors that have been rescinded following the revelations of sexual assault and Harris’s eventual conviction. Harris in particular, by virtue of the fact that he is alive to witness the indignity, stands to lose a whole lot more than Savile in terms of awards and honors. There are reports that everything with a Rolf Harris signature or name, from large scale oil paintings and music albums to manhole covers in a council car park, are now being cast in a new light. Some individuals who have acquired Rolf Harris’s art works and memorabilia over the years are planning a bonfire as a means of disposing of them._
In contrast to the law abiding and “no one is or should be above the law” attitude of the UK, individuals in Nigeria who have acquired the celebrity status of Harris and Savile, or those who have the fortune of working for and being ingratiated with the President like Mr. Omokri would never have been charged with a crime needless to say being convicted for their crimes. For Nigerians with a strong sense of equality, fairness and justice, there is the hope that the insanity in our society will one day be replaced with the same brand of justice exhibited by the British. Although our justice system would have to be severely aggressive to tackle our peculiar offences as our problems have progressed from corruption to corruption with intense impunity.
As curious as it is that all three individuals walked free for so long after committing the crimes, however, it is noteworthy to praise the British legal system as it has proved that just like revenge, justice is a dish best served cold.
1. Operation Yewtree is a police investigation into sexual abuse allegations, predominantly the abuse of children, against the British media personality Jimmy Saville and others.
2. BBC, 21 July 2009, Coulson 'didn't condone hacking. Retrieved on 4th July 2014
3. "Coulson resigns due to phone-hacking scandal". The Spy Report (Media Spy). 21 January 2011. Retrieved 3rd July 2014
4. "Coulson Quits No 10 Over Phone-Hack Pressure". Sky News. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 3rd July 2014
5. The Guardian article on Coulson in HM Advocate v Sheridan and Sheridan. Retrieved 4th July 2014
6. Siddique, Haroon; Gabbatt, Adam; Quinn, Ben (8 July 2011). "News of the World phone-hacking scandal – live updates". guardian.co.uk (London: Guardian News and Media Ltd). Retrieved 3rd July 2014
7. "Andy Coulson charged in Tommy Sheridan trial perjury inquiry". BBC News. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 3rd July 2014
8. "Phone-hacking: Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson in 2013 trial". BBC. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 4th July 2014
Lisa O’Carroll, (June 2014).
9. "Andy Coulson to face retrial over alleged payments to public officials”, The Guardian, 30 June 2014, Retrieved 4th July 2014
10. Mail on Sunday, 17 July 2011, Rebekah vetoed BBC man and told Cameron he should give No10 job to Andy Coulson. Retrieved 4th July 2014
11. "Phone hacking: David Cameron announces terms of phone-hacking inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). 13 July 2011. Retrieved 4th July 2014
12.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10940857/Blotting-out-memories-of-Rolf-Harris.html. Retrieved on 4th July 2014