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Shah: Abused girls can be at fault
Former newspaper tycoon Eddy Shah, cleared last month of raping a schoolgirl in the 1990s, has said underage girls who engage in consensual sex must take blame for the abuse they suffer.
The 69-year-old, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, was found not guilty at the Old Bailey of raping a girl at upmarket London hotels when she was between 12 and 15. In his first in-depth interview since then, Mr Shah described charges of rape relating to girls under 16 who "threw themselves" at celebrities as "a technical thing". He also claimed that Scotland Yard's investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and other television stars from the 1970s and 1980s is developing into a "witch hunt".
His controversial comments come after a prosecutor was suspended and a judge placed under investigation this week when it emerged a 13-year-old female sex abuse victim was labelled "predatory" and "sexually experienced" in court.
In an interview with presenter Stephen Nolan for BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Shah said: "Rape was a technical thing - below a certain age. But these girls were going out with pop groups and becoming groupies and throwing themselves at them. Young girls and young men have always wanted a bit of excitement when they are young. They want to appear adult and do adult things."
Asked if this meant the underage victims were themselves at fault, he said: "If we're talking about girls who just go out and have a good time, then they are to blame. If we talk about people who go out and actually get 'raped', then I feel no - and everything should be done against that."
Mr Shah was asked if he thought the Operation Yewtree investigation into Savile and others is in danger of becoming a witch hunt. "I think it's developing into that - it's easy policing and it's easy prosecutions. It's based on emotion most of it," he said.
"It's going back to the witch hunt theory. I'd rather be dunked in water for two minutes and if I came out alive I was not guilty, and if I was dead I was guilty. In a civilised society there's got to be more checks and balances before these sort of accusations are used. It's great headlines in papers, it's great to talk about these things. And it's emotional stuff and the emotion always falls on the side of the person who is supposed to have been raped."
Mr Shah said he had been helping a "very well-known person" charged by Operation Yewtree investigators deal with the "horrible, horrible feeling" of "emptiness about everything" that he had experienced when he was accused of rape.
The comments come after prosecuting barrister Robert Colover made "inappropriate comments" during the sentencing of paedophile Neil Wilson, who admitted engaging in sexual activity with the 13-year-old. The judge in the case, Nigel Peters QC, is being investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints for remarks he made before he gave Wilson an eight-month suspended sentence and allowed him to walk free from court.
Mr Colover has been suspended from prosecuting sexual offence cases pending a review by the Crown Prosecution Service. Wilson, 41, is due to appear before Judge Peters again via videolink at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday to deal with "an administrative matter" in relation to his sentence.