- The South Yorkshire police massively falsified evidence to cover up appalling failures in their handling of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
- The banks obscured their casino-like investment and lending practices until they had to be baled out by the Government in 2008.
- The “Daily Telegraph” revealed astonishing abuse of the expenses system by hundreds of Members of Parliament in 2009.
- The widespread hacking activities of News International Corporation led to the closure of the “News of the World” and the establishment of the Leveson inquiry in 2011.
- And now we learn that, over a period of decades, hundreds of children and young women were abused or even raped by television personality Jimmy Savile.
These are very different situations at different times, but is there a common element? In each case, the abuse extended over a long period of time and was known by many people but not exposed or investigated until revelations long after the incidents in question. In each case, there was a culture of authoritarianism and even intimidation that made it hard for those who knew the truth to challenge those in authority and expose the wrong doing.
The lesson is that all power tends to corrupt. Therefore all institutions – whether a police force, a company, a media organisation, a political party, a charity – need robust systems to hold authority to account in an effective and recorded manner. Openness and transparency are keys to identifying and correcting inevitable abuses of power.