Esther Rantzen condemns Islington art exhibition claiming Jimmy Savile is innocent

TV personality Esther Rantzen has condemned a controversial exhibition in Islington that defends Jimmy Savile against child abuse allegations.

The presenter and child protection advocate spoke out about the art show – titled Jimmy Savile Is Innocent – ahead of its opening last night at the Bread and Butter gallery in Upper Street.

She told the Gazette: “It’s insulting and ludicrous. I think the message it carries is that we still don’t believe survivors who come forward to tell their story, even though they corroborate each other, even though they’re counter-witnessed.”

The exhibition’s curator this week claimed that the majority of accusations against the entertainer have been fabricated, saying the late Jim’ll Fix It star has become a victim of a “trial by media” and that he is only being targeted because the dead cannot defend themselves.

David West, 39, co-founder of Bread and Butter, insisted that Savile is innocent until proven guilty and called for a posthumous trial to find out the truth once and for all – saying only a court of law can settle the matter.

But Ms Rantzen, who founded the counselling service ChildLine, said: “A posthumous trial – I think it’s happening and I think the evidence is overwhelming.

“Although normally I wouldn’t say that the media is the right place for a trial, in this case I think it’s so important that the survivors are listened to.

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“I mean, that lovely woman, I think her name was Karin Ward [who was featured in a Panorama documentary on Monday] says that the fact that she has been heard at last gives her an opportunity to move past this appalling memory in her life and we would all wish that to be the case. We would all wish that she recognises that none of this is her fault and that Savile was a criminal.”

She added: “Savile’s own words on his headstone were ‘it was good while it lasted’. And I’d hate to think that he’s down there in hell laughing with pleasure at the pain and the chaos he’s caused.”

Despite the flood of allegations being made against Savile, Mr West told the Gazette: “It’s easy to kick the dead and people can say anything now. If I said I was abused by Jimmy Savile it would probably be taken seriously and I’d get a nice article in the papers. It sounds like a lot of claims are fabricated. I would say less than five per cent are true.

‘‘He might be guilty of minor things, but I don’t think he’s guilty of what everyone is now saying. There might be a little bit of truth, but to get to that we would need a court trial. That’s why I seriously think we should have a posthumous trial. It would not be difficult to set up and would weed out a lot of the people making claims just to see their name in the papers.”

n The number for ChildLine is 0800 1111. It’s free and doesn’t show up on phone bills.