Why is it always scandal before action?

The recent exposure of Jimmy Savile’s sordid past has fostered a much deeper analysis of sex and abuse scandals in British society, which reflects the bizarre nature in which justice is still pursued in the United Kingdom.

The pursuit of justice occurs in flurries, thrust by public opinion and driven by the media, rather than by the stable consistency on which the rule of law should be based. The culture of MPs supplementing their income with expenses claims was an accepted and widely known practice for years in Parliament before it was questioned by an errant American journalist.

The problem was systemic, and really related to the fact that MPs receive a fraction of the necessary salary concurrent with their position. It was, however, blamed on a sudden an inexplicable wave of opportunism and criminality among Parliamentarians and addressed as such.

The recent scandals over phone hacking and leaking to the media were equally met by politicians with faux surprise, who were reticent to blame a media whose culture had become too base and reliant on bad practice in which they themselves had complicity, preferring to level the blame at a few bad eggs.

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The most significant problem in both cases was that no one saw either scandal coming, or none had the courage to act, even when problematic issues surrounding both scandals should have been (and were) obvious to the most junior researchers working in and around Parliament.

Whilst it should be the role of the media to expose individual misdeeds by the now relatively rare form of investigative journalism, it must be the role of leaders, legislators and prosecutors to address the heart of the problem, rather than the heart of the scandal, and preferably before it becomes a national disgrace.

David Cameron’s announcement that he is personally requesting an inquiry into sexual abuse in Welsh children’s homes is not unwelcomed, but it is a mere continuation of an uneven, and after the fact approach, to the pursuit of truth and justice.

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