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, 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’ raped, then I feel no – and everything should be done against that.”
When asked if he thought the Operation Yewtree investigation into Savile and others is in danger of becoming a witch hunt, he said: “I think it’s developing into that – it’s easy policing and it’s easy prosecutions. It’s based on emotion most of it.”
“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.
He also revealed for the first time that he had suicidal thoughts during his trial.
“Every night I worked out different ways of committing suicide to help me go to sleep, actually,” he said. “I was very low. The only time I was lower than that in my life was when we were told (Mr Shah’s wife) Jennifer had three months to live all those years ago. You cannot describe the depths you go to.”
Mr Shah, whose birth name is Selim Shah, founded the now- defunct Today newspaper in 1986.
He later went on to become the author of several novels.
David Sinclair, head of communications at Victim Support Scotland, said Mr Shah’s comments would upset those who had suffered sexual abuse.
“Rape is rape, there is no question about it, or it being about ‘partly the victims’ fault’,” he said.
Alison Todd, director of children and family services at CHILDREN 1ST, the Scottish child welfare society, said: “Since the Savile abuse case broke, we have seen a steady stream of similar cases and commentaries where people have shown inappropriate attitudes towards children and young people. We need to change these attitudes.
“And while children need education and support to think about how they can keep themselves safe from the risk of sexual harm, there is a need to focus on ensuring that adults display healthy attitudes and behaviour towards children.”