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Police mistakes over Savile

The former DJ and broadcaster Jimmy Savile was reported to police for more than 50 years before he died. However thanks to his celebrity police were more cautious in dealing with a man of such status. So Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) inspector Drusilla Sharpling admitted on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, after the HMIC review of allegations made against Jimmy Savile during his lifetime.

Towards the end of the report, in a section titled ‘cult of celebrity’, inspectors point out that a 2003 Met report was marked “restricted”, ‘seemingly as a direct consequence of Savile’s status’: “Perhaps in the days when the cult of celebrity held the public’s attention more raptly, the quest for justice for Savile’s victims was made that little more difficult by those whose duty it was to protect the vulnerable in our society.”

After October 2012, when ITV broadcast a television programme in which five women made allegations of sexual abuse against Savile between 1968 and 1974, the Met Police invited anyone who wished to make a similar allegation of sexual abuse against Savile to come forward.

The joint Met and NSPCC report after Operation Yewtree states that about 600 people came forward to provide information, of whom about 450 made specific allegations against Savile. Of those victims, the MPS considered 214 allegations to be crimes that were capable of being recorded against Savile at the time of their commission. The HMIC made enquiries of all 43 police forces in England and Wales. “The results are stark. As far as their records disclose, only five allegations of sexual assault were made against Savile to a police force between 1955 and 2009.”

Of those 214 crimes which the Met has recorded, 32 have been classified as rape. Four of these crimes involved a victim who was under 10 years of age at the time and a further 12 crimes involved a victim who was between 10 and under 16.

The report finds mistakes were made by the police; and while policies and practices designed to improve the experience of child victims are now available, HMIC raise serious concerns over why so many victims felt unable to come forward and report what had happened to the authorities.

HMIC asked police forces to provide all information relating to sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile recorded before the launch of Operation Yewtree (October 2012). The findings are surprising, say HMIC given what is now known of Savile’s prolific offending over many decades: the police recorded just five allegations of criminal conduct and two pieces of intelligence information during Savile’s lifetime, with the earliest of these records dating from 1964. In contrast, since 2012 more than 600 people have come forward with allegations against Savile. It is of serious concern inspectors say that so few victims of abuse felt able to go to the police at the time in the knowledge that action would be taken.

Although Savile lived in West Yorkshire for much of his life, the seven pieces of information considered in the report were identified by the police in Surrey, Sussex and London. During the course of this review, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire referred questions relating to the relationship between West Yorkshire Police and Savile to the police watchdog, the IPCC.

To improve understanding of why no specific allegations against Savile were recorded before 2003, HMIC considered policy and practice changes in the police service and the wider criminal justice system over Savile’s period of offending. HMIC found that a child reporting sexual abuse now is likely to be better treated than 50 years ago. But it added there is still more to do if children are to receive the full protection of the changes that have been introduced since then.

HMIC found that the police made mistakes in their handling of the five allegations and two pieces of intelligence information. While there were systems and processes available that could have enabled the three forces involved to ‘join the dots’ and spot patterns, these were used either incorrectly, or not at all. This resulted in a series of failings: to understand the potential depth of Savile’s criminality; to encourage (given what the report refers to as the ‘Yewtree effect’) other victims to come forward; and to bring about an appropriate prosecution. A related theme identified in the inspection was the isolation each person felt as a result of believing that Savile had not abused anyone else.

While this report found only seven records, HMIC has wider concerns about the way the police manage and use information, and whether national guidance is being given full effect in all forces. HMIC will examine this further as part of its review into child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, which is due to start in summer 2013.

Drusilla Sharpling, said: “The findings in this report are of deep concern, and clearly there were mistakes in how the police handled the allegations made against Savile during his lifetime. However, an equally profound problem is that victims felt unable to come forward and report crimes of sexual abuse. It is imperative that all those charged with protecting these victims do more to encourage reporting, taking the right action to bring perpetrators to justice. We welcome the new measures announced recently by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers. But more needs to be done, and it is neither enough nor correct to say ‘This couldn’t happen now’.”

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, said: “It is imperative that children and other victims of sexual crimes have the knowledge, the means and the confidence to report what has happened to them. HMIC’s report identifies policies and practices which the police must reassess and improve in order to be better able to deal with historical allegations, and to keep our children safe. Building on this examination of Savile, HMIC’s programme for 2013/14 will take this work deeper and wider.”

The report concludes that ‘since 1964 and on more than one occasion, police forces knew or suspected that Savile was a sexual offender. We have not been able to establish, however, whether any police operations were undertaken as a result of that knowledge or suspicion. Given the passage of time, that information may have been irretrievably lost; or it may exist in police information archives (paper records, pocket note books, paper-based intelligence records); or it may reside in the memories of former police officers who have long since retired.’

A copy of the 61-page report, “Mistakes Were Made”: HMIC’s review into allegations and intelligence material concerning Jimmy Savile between 1964 and 2012 can be found on the HMIC website

ACPO lead on intelligence Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “The HMIC report published today recognises that there has been improvements in the police response to child abuse and progress more generally in the service’s handling of intelligence material. However, there are clearly areas that the service needs to improve upon.

“ACPO last year commissioned a report into the effectiveness of the Police National Database as part of the wider investigation into historic abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile.

“What must be stressed is that PND is a relatively new system and a huge improvement on what was in place before. We have a national intelligence system which is capable of being interrogated by any trained officer across the UK, to identify suspects, offenders and patterns of behaviour.

“However, our review has highlighted that the PND currently has limitations and although many of them are capable of being addressed, this will have to be over a period of time than immediately and will require more money.

“It must also be stressed that PND is not the sole intelligence tool available to the police. When used alongside other systems it is capable of providing a clearer picture of someone’s pattern of behaviour which can be tackled effectively.

“Ensuring our systems are robust and that information is handled effectively are key to ensuring we are doing all we can to protect the public from those who pose harm. ACPO and the College of Policing will work with the Home Office around any proposed review of Management of Police Information (MOPI) code and associated guidance.

“As the service has stated before – the lessons of the Savile disclosures reinforce the importance of the work the police service has done to increase our focus on supporting victims and survivors of sexual offences, whether they are children or adults. There remains more to do, to reduce reliance on victims and take a proactive approach to pursuing offenders and ACPO and the DPP last week announced measures for further joint working to improve justice in this area.

“It takes great courage to report abuse. There are still victims and survivors out there who haven’t disclosed to anyone and we encourage them to use those help lines available or report to their local police force.”

Labour comment

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This report is deeply disturbing as it highlights some of the missed opportunities the police had to stop the criminal abuse perpetuated by Jimmy Savile since the mid 1960s. Time and again victims were not taken seriously and cases of terrible crimes and abuse were not followed up.

“Vulnerable children and young people were badly let down by public organisations and a criminal justice system that should have protected them. The recommendations should be implemented in full and without delay. The Home Secretary must make sure all forces are doing their best to encourage victims to come forward, to treat them with proper respect and to pursue investigations with thoroughness and determination.

“But this isn’t enough. We are still waiting for the IPCC investigation into West Yorkshire Police. And we still have over 14 different inquiries, reports or working groups into Savile problems in different hospitals and the BBC as well as different police forces. But no one is looking at the full picture. This is not a historic problem, there are still failings in the current system, victims are still not taken seriously enough and action is needed today.

“We still need to know how Savile was able to get away with this for decades, why so many people in so many different institutions failed to stop him and what action is still needed today as this HMIC review makes clear. A myriad of small reviews and inquiries are just not enough. The Home Secretary must act and set up a proper overarching review led by child protection experts into why everyone failed to stop Savile and what should be done now. It should be modelled on the procedures for serious case reviews involving child protection experts drawing together all the evidence and findings of the various inquiries already taking place. It would need to deal with common problems and lessons and the wider failings between different institutions that none of the inquiries are looking at.

“This type of inquiry is hinted at in the HMIC report and the Government should look at how to do this now. Although legislation and child protection has improved over many years, we all know that much more needs to be done. And the scale of Savile’s abuse should be a wake-up call to everyone.
“The Home Secretary needs to recognise the seriousness of these reports and take action, so we can make sure vulnerable young people are listened to and better protected from these horrible crimes.”


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