Witch hunts are things that move in and out of fashion. It usually starts with a scandal which has carried on for several years and which is a serious perversion of the way in which a society is supposed to operate. Once the scandal is publicised society starts a witch hunt on the assumption that there are many other similar scandals that have been suppressed and which now must be brought to light.
The present fashionable witch hunt is to search for sexual perversion in leading figures. It started with revelations about “Sir” Jimmy Savill and suddenly all sorts of entertainers were subjected to inquiries and criminal charges about incidents that happened many years ago. Many famous people have been convicted of sexual crimes committed more than two generations ago and we have seen a procession of very old men brought before the courts on serious charges of sexual misconduct. Some have been acquitted and some convicted. Good reputations have been damaged.
The witch hunt has now turned to examination of political figures who were once a political force in the land but whose force has long been spent; many of them have died and there is no penalty under English law for defaming the dead, so witch hunts about dead politicians have the risk free ability to sell newspapers and advertising and boost ratings in the media.
I am uncomfortable with this present fashion. The dead cannot defend themselves and it is unjust to subject elderly people to accusations about what may have happened years ago especially when such accusations may be, by lapse of time, very difficult to prove. I understand that the victims of unpunished crimes want “closure” and society needs justice, but justice is not served by a public witch hunt, but rather by careful and discrete investigation and by the bringing of charges when there is enough evidence to justify those charges and when the accused has an ability to defend himself or herself.
The state, when combined with the media has relatively limitless resources when engaged on these investigations; a defendant is at a massive disadvantage because he or she has limited resources and there is very little in the way of state funding that can put a defendant in a position where he or she can defend himself or herself.
The witch hunts will continue until we are bored with them and look for other entertainment. I am not sure of any purpose is served by claiming a long dead politician or public figure committed sexual crimes.