The legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has wasted no time in tying the downfall of former entertainer Rolf Harris to the efforts of our free and fearless press, and in particular the heroic display of Himself Personally Now. To this end, he has dispatched Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover over the top to tell anyone still awake that Harris’ conviction would not have happened if Leveson has his way.
Glover trots out, in his inimitable and utterly humourless manner, the usual bogeymen: Leveson’s report, anyone having anything to do with the campaigning group Hacked Off (which is, for the umpteenth time, described as “anti-press”), those dastardly lawyers (as opposed to the dastardly lawyers the Mail uses to shield itself from those seeking redress), and Steve Coogan.
And this is, as it was last year when the same line was taken by the same papers, yet another pile of fresh and suitably steaming bullpucky. The assertion that Harris’ lawyers Harbottle and Lewis had, by themselves, halted the press juggernaut and silenced even the Daily Mail, had already been shown to be totally false. Nothing was stopping them naming Harris. Nothing.
We know this because, back in November 2012, when the Police first questioned Harris, his name was put out there by Mark Williams-Thomas. Some pundits will try to excuse the lack of lawyer action by saying “it was only on Twitter”, but then, so was Sally Bercow’s off-the-cuff remark about Lord McAlpine, and that was shown not to be much of a defence. Williams-Thomas received no rebuke.
There was no legal action, no firing off of threatening emails, nothing. Nor could there be: what Leveson had recommended could not be used as the basis of any action. When Glover whines “Is it too much to hope that Lord Justice Leveson, and the monomaniacal activists of Hacked Off, will ever concede that his conviction was partly the work of a free and open Press?” he protests rather too much.
The reality I laid out last year: “One ... dealing with someone in his 80s in declining health meant the possibility of public backlash, had the Fourth Estate gone after their quarry [as] with Christopher Jefferies. And two, it was in their interest to go along with the lawyers, so they could at a later date use the story as a stick to beat anyone ... [supporting] a new system of press regulation”.
That anyone could have named Rolf Harris was demonstrated by Mark Williams-Thomas. Had the press wanted to follow his example, no lawyer could have stopped them. That Glover is protesting otherwise means nothing, other than that he has been given the task of wiping his editor’s backside. This whole pretence of linking the Harris case to Leveson is a sham from start to finish.
So it’s rather like all the other Leveson protests in the Mail. No change there, then.