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October 28, 2012



35.7% is a 'small chance'? I agree with your overall point but that bothered me.

R. Soul

I tell ya, all this stuff about Savile nearly ruined my future. I had just gone into production of Jimmy Savile calendars when this story broke. Now the bank is refusing me the funds to launch my product. The project is no longer feasible and I have lost a lot of money.

Still, being the resilient entrepreneur I am, I intend to produce and sell Freddie Starr calendars instead.


@ Jason - 35.7% = probably not, and is massively short of the reasonable doubt threshold for conviction.
If a firm sacked someone coz they thought there was a 35.7% chance of them being a criminal, I think there'd often be an outcry.
That's why I called it small.

Wellington Frink and Hemmersley

I would imagine that the `incuriosity' stemmed from the fact that Savile had many powerful friends in high places and there is nobody more cowardly than a civil servant. Savile was at the forefront of Thatcher's Big Society forerunner project `Care in the Community'.

Anyway: if you think you may have been molested by Jimmy Savile we can help you claim any compensation due. Text `Howsaboutthathten' to 0799944444 straight away.


I find it fascinating that media outlets like the Mail and Sun can attack the BBC for not being brave about "what everyone suspected about Jimmy Savile" when they themselves were not brave.

All their fears of libel actions were paralleled by problems for the BBC - Savile moving to ITV, suing the BBC for slander and wrongful dismissal.

Now someone could have gone to the police - but that's really where the Bayesian (unconscious or otherwise) kicks in...


35.7% = worth putting some resources into getting more data and making sure kids are properly chaperoned. If that ever was the probability they had in their heads the BBC bosses would certainly have been grossly negligent.

Account Deleted

"And would you really have given great credence to the word of the sort of people who screamed and fainted at the sight of the Bay City Rollers?"

Careful. That's someone's sister (or mother) you're talking about there.

Iain Coleman

Would you convict someone in a court of law on a 35.7% probability? No.

Would you sack someone on a 35.7% probability? Probably not.

Would you thoroughly investigate serious criminal allegations on a 35.7% probability, and take precautionary actions while the investigation progressed? Damn right.

Tim Newman

"Savile was at the forefront of Thatcher's Big Society forerunner project `Care in the Community'."

I did wonder how long it would be before the blame was laid at Thatcher's feet...

Richard Smith

Hang on - what's an "allegation"? One specific claim, or lots of different ones made by different people at different times? Does that make a difference?


@ Richard. Good question. A lot depends on the correlation between the allegations. If this is low (eg women making allegations without knowing others' are doing so), then the false positive rate will be low. If the rumours are gossip, are the allegations are due to bandwagon-hopping, then we might reasonably ascribe a higher false positive rate to them.


Excellent (albeit long) piece on BBC culture from @LRB http://bit.ly/VQkBr7. I'd argue we're still utterly confused about sex and sexuality but that exposure around Savile can only help towards more honest debate.


Roll back a few years then imagine the screaming and raving from the more hysterical newspapers as the CPS attempts to charge/try Saville on the basis of ancient accusations. If the case ever got near a court imagine the ugly sight of accusers being torn to shreds by well paid lawyers. Bayes theory has been chucked out of UK courts before - it has zero credibility except to statisticians.

A useful line of enquiry might be trawling the files of Saville's lawyers, doubt it will happen tho. I agree with Howarthm, we have barely scratched the surface regarding honest debate about sex, sexuality and human interactions generally.

That was then, processes improved blah blah blah.


Don't link to Brendan O'Neill. It only encourages him.

Michael Power

"But then, I've missed the point, haven't I?"

I am afraid you are right about missing the point.

"Wilful blindness" is a problem with cognitive biases, not statistics as Margaret Heffernan explains so clearly in her blogs and book:


There is a typographical error in the title of the linked blog - it should be "endemic", not "epidemic" wilful blindness as the underlying biases are in all of us.

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