Operation Yewtree fails its first test in the courtroom

Lucy Manning

Former UK Editor

Former DJ Dave Lee Travis Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

First Bill Roache, now Dave Lee Travis.

Two high profile names tried for sexual offences and both cleared.

Dave Lee Travis was the first person arrested by Operation Yewtree, set up after the Jimmy Savile scandal, to go on trial. Bill Roache’s arrest wasn’t by Operation Yewtree.

Sixteen people have so far been arrested by Operation Yewtree. Four of them have been charged. Five are still on bail and seven have been told they will face no further action.

Of the four who were charged, David Smith - a former BBC driver - killed himself before his trial started and Max Clifford and Rolf Harris will be in court in the next few months.

The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been determined, after the failures of Jimmy Savile, to take these cases more seriously. Guidelines have been changed, old assumptions dismissed, victims encouraged to come forward. And they did.

But these are alleged offences from some decades ago and it appears that, despite the belief of the Crown Prosecution Service, the evidence has just not been strong enough to secure convictions. Both men insisted they were not guilty and the juries agreed.

And Dave Lee Travis argued that his actions that the women were complaining about were actions of a different era.

The failure of this first Operation Yewtree trial will raise questions about whether this has been, as some claim, ‘a celebrity witch-hunt’ and how easy it is to prosecute these sort of crimes from so long ago.

There are still two trials to come and imminent decisions expected about whether to charge some of those including Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr who are still on bail.

But Operation Yewtree was launched with a string of high profile arrests and has failed its first test in the courtroom.