Jimmy Savile's star falls

Jimmy Savile, who died a year ago shortly before his 85th birthday, was one of Britain's best-known entertainers. I grew up watching him. He was everywhere. A radio DJ, zany TV host, larger than life personality. The Queen had made him 'Sir Jimmy', and he received countless honours for the millions of dollars he raised for charity - particularly childrens' charities. Yet this week the headstone over his grave was removed and broken up. Plaques and street-signs bearing his name were taken down. Because Jimmy Saville was a serial sex offender.

The mountain of evidence that has emerged only since his death, and which nobody denies, is that for decades he abused under-age girls, some as young as nine or ten, and relied on his fame to protect him. He thought he was beyond the reach of the law and he died a popular hero, so in a sense I suppose he was. But the police are now investigating around 120 leads, and new cases are coming to light all the time.

The epitaph on that headstone - 'it was good while it lasted' - feels like a sick joke from beyond the grave. But others have some very serious questions to answer. The BBC, where Savile worked for most of his career, is massively embarrassed. Many of the offences were apparently committed in his dressing room after the young girls in question had appeared on his shows. After he died, an exposé of his alleged offences was pulled by BBC News just days before their entertainment division broadcast a fulsome tribute to the man.

It seems impossible to believe that there weren't people at the BBC and elsewhere who knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. The British public has been struggling to work out what to learn from it. Many of the crimes were committed in the sixties and seventies and we're told attitudes were different then. Well, maybe, but plenty of people still went to jail for lesser offences.

Once again, it seems there was one rule for the rich and famous and another for everybody else. The question for all of us, though, is what we would do today if we learned of allegations against somebody well-liked and respected. While saying nothing is always the easy option, for serial abusers like Jimmy Savile, other people's silence is their licence to carry on. This is Lance Price for CBS News in London.

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