Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson explains the extent
to which he went to get an exclusive with convicted sex offender
William Gibson – the man at the centre of the row over sex offenders in
schools – only to find that, in Gibson’s world, an exclusive means
interviews with more than one broadcaster: “I have been amazed at the
degree we broadcasters were taken to task by viewers recently for
failing – apparently – to give sex offenders a fair crack of the whip.
talking about a certain William Gibson. Late into an edit and coming up
to transmission, Gibson came into the frame when it was revealed he’d
been teaching at a series of schools in the Northeast, despite being a
convicted sex offender. Suddenly everyone’s attention switched from the
Norwich PE teacher case to the Newcastle area.
Cue: new top to package. From then on the chase was joined.
to the efforts of producer James Blake, we found ourselves tearing out
of our afternoon news conference for Waterloo and securing the
opportunity to talk to Gibson in person.
Talk? You couldn’t shut him up.
When Gibson sat down it was already too late for that night’s programme. But hey – he was our TV exclusive thus far.
We were happy to go to bed with his version of events on camera.
how to tell it? He’d only agreed to appear in silhouette. But across
the next day problems mounted. The central issue: this man clearly had
his side of the story to tell and almost all of it was so far untold,
not least for important legal reasons.
Here was his low-lit
silhouette detailing how yes, he had fondled a school girl as a teacher
– but it turned out the relationship had then gone on across the next
19 years. They’d eloped to Scotland to get married against her parents’
wishes. They had brought up three children with whom Gibson still claimed to be close.
a few of our viewers were emailing saying you had to tell the whole
story in order to tell the truth of it – then let people make up their
own minds. But that was not as easy as it sounded. Broadcasting
Gibson’s side of the story could have identified the girl in question
who is now in her 40s. But identification of the victim of sexual
assault and in particular an underage victim, can constitute a serious
offence, which our lawyers kindly pointed out.
Yikes – and there was I thinking it was just a good story.
Gibson’s certainly a curious figure.
No reoffending on the underage girls front at all – but a string of subsequent fraud offences.
the official verdict that he poses no threat to young people – he was
certainly the epicentre of the latest national ‘paedophile’ storm.
While in the minds of most people he wouldn’t be considered a paedophile at all.
A foolish man? Well, yes. An untrustworthy one – definitely, after the fraud business, as we then found out.
Gibson left the room I distinctly recall him turning to us and vowing
he would give no interviews to the BBC of whom he seemed to have a deep
and unfathomable loathing.
Next day – whaddya know? Up he pops on the BBC, opining about his life as a victim.”