Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Technology'll Fix It

Anyone watching the UK news lately will have become aware of the furore surrounding the activities of a dead celebrity fund raiser who, it appears, has acted as a sexual predator for the last fifty years of his life.  The man was called Jimmy Savile and the British newspapers are full of lurid and sensational stories of how he abused possibly hundreds of people, hiding behind the protection of celebrity and fund-raising.  Many of the assaults he is accused of are alleged to have taken place at the BBC television centre and in several hospitals that Savile raised funds for.

I don't know if the full story will ever be known with any accuracy - Savile died two years ago - but I'm certain there will be numerous court cases brought to judge those who allowed him to do these deeds on their watch.

What has this to do with a blog that focusses on eBooks, technology and social media, I hear you ask.

Well, apart from the fact that, as a parent, I find the subject matter almost too terrible to imagine I think that we shouldn't ever have to see someone commit such crimes without being brought to book ever again.

There are two strands to this opinion, both related to events that have occurred within the last five years or so.

Many of Savile's crimes have taken place over the last forty to fifty years, over a period when technology, especially computer technology, has evolved at an incredible pace.  The British police have been accused in the past of being slow to adopt computer technology to assist with crime detection and management and it was only after a series of murders in the late Seventies and early Eighties that led to the conviction of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, that they started to use computers more effectively.  The judge at the trial of Sutcliffe was very critical of the way the police had failed to use technology to recognise that he was major suspect.

However it was only about five years ago that the British police forces - there are forty-two - started sharing information between themselves.  Of course, anyone convicted of a crime was uploaded onto a National Database, but all the local complaints filed about people stayed local.  This led to accusations about people such as Savile not being linked as he was never brought to court.  It is probable that in individual cases where a complaint was brought to them that the local police genuinely believed it was at best a one-off (as they didn't have the national picture of complaints) about a very rich and influential person.  They probably advised people that in a situation like that the complainant was likely to come off worst in court.

Now, of course, they share that sort of information so it is more likely that they would join the dots and stop seeing predators like Savile as isolated incidents.

See related article - What not to share

The other change in the last five years is the rise in Social Media.  With Facebook and Twitter as popular as they are I suspect that it would have been much less likely that a predator would keep a lid on rumours.  Social Media isn't necessarily the right way to judge a person and I'm sure travesties of justice will happen through that medium, but I think that if it had existed during the peak of Savile's crimes then he would have been outed long before he died.  Some national charities would have been poorer as a result, but society would have been better.

Savile used to have a prime time TV show called Jim'll Fix It - which now sounds quite ironic - but I'm pleased to think that technology'll fix it.  Too late for many, but at least we have it now.


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