Police failure ‘left Jimmy Savile on the loose’

Jimmy Savile: 'One of the UK's most dangerous and prolific paedophiles'. Picture: Getty
Jimmy Savile: 'One of the UK's most dangerous and prolific paedophiles'. Picture: Getty
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A SERIES of police failures allowed Jimmy Savile to become one of the UK’s most dangerous and prolific paedophiles, a damning report has revealed.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found forces failed to “join the dots” between five alleged offences and two separate sources of intelligence spread over 44 years.

After Savile’s death in 2011, 600 people came forward with information, 450 made specific allegations against him, and the Metropolitan Police Service believes 214 could be recorded as crimes.

In a report out today, HMIC highlights several police failures that stopped Savile from being arrested and allowed his offending to continue. Police were criticised for “failing to identify a potential pattern in Savile’s behaviour”. There was also a “failure to understand the potential depth of Savile’s criminality”.

The report also said police should have told each victim that others existed, once it was clear that would not harm any potential prosecution.

“A recurring theme was the isolation that each victim felt as a result of believing that she was Savile’s only victim,” the report said.

“At the heart of the matter in these cases lies the decision of the police not to inform victims that others like them existed.”

The report was particularly critical of Scotland Yard’s handling of a 2003 investigation. It marked a Crime Recording Information System report as restricted, “seemingly because of Savile’s celebrity status”.

Neither that report nor an anonymous letter sent to the Met about Savile in 1998 were made available to Surrey Police, when that force investigated three complaints in 2007.

“We are confident that if the Surrey investigating officers had been made aware of these previous reports, the investigation would have been scaled up accordingly,” HMIC said.

It has made a series of recommendations to the forces in England and Wales for which it has responsibly. They include creating a “legal obligation” for professionals to notify others of information or evidence that a child has been abused.

HMIC admitted that, because of inconsistencies between forces, and the fallibility of any intelligence system, “there is a distinct possibility that such failures could be repeated”.

Inspectors were also concerned about the small number of people who contacted police when Savile was alive, compared with the hundreds who came forward after he had died.

Drusilla Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, 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.”

Tom Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, 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 scrutinises only the performance of forces in England and Wales. However, it was advised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland that forces north of the Border found no further historic records of allegations against Savile beyond the seven victims uncovered as part of Operation Yewtree.

The first opportunity English police had to stop Savile’s decades of predatory sex attacks came in 1964. While the Met said there had been an investigation, after which two men were charged and one convicted, the only reference to Savile was an entry on an intelligence ledger held by its paedophile unit.

“We have not found any evidence to suggest that any investigation was carried out as a result of that intelligence,” the HMIC report said.

It also revealed Savile allegedly changed his telephone number after being targeted in a blackmail plot. That was reported to police via an anonymous letter, which HMIC said made “distressing reading” in light of what was now known. Referring to Savile, it read: “Please do not let him get away with this perversion and that he feels immune because of the people he mixes with. There are too many of his perverted type around – don’t let him continue to think he is untouchable, or that his secret is too well hidden.”

It ended: “If you think this is a hoax, or a crank letter, think again. It is not I who suffer if you do nothing, but the children.”

The Met agreed with HMIC’s concerns but insisted it had already made strides to improve practices. It said: “It is vital that we learn all the lessons from this landmark case and ensure our systems and processes are aligned to prevent someone like Savile ever committing such criminality again.

“Although we are satisfied our officers followed the correct procedures in place at the time, HMIC have rightly highlighted the complexities of managing police information nationally.

“There is a balance to be struck around ensuring sensitive information can be retrieved by investigating officers without compromising an individual’s privacy.”

What the police knew

Police were aware of five alleged victims and two other sources of intelligence about Jimmy Savile prior to his death.

• An entry on an intelligence ledger held by the Metropolitan Police Service paedophile unit in 1964.

• A computerised record of an anonymous letter received by the Met in 1998.

• A victim who stated that Savile had indecently assaulted her in the 1970s, reported to the Met in 2003.

• Complaints by three victims who said that Savile had indecently assaulted them in the 1970s and 1980s, reported to Surrey Police in 2007.

• A victim who said Savile had indecently assaulted her in 1970, reported to Sussex Police in 2008.

Taking steps to avoid new child sex scandal

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary made a series of recommendations to all police forces in England and Wales, and to the Home Office, to try to prevent a repeat of their failings over the Jimmy Savile scandal. Those recommendations included:

• The College of Policing, the professional body that advises forces, should issue new guidelines on how to deal with investigations of child abuse following the death of the alleged perpetrator.

• In view of the current low reporting rate, the police service and the College of Policing should establish ways to encourage victims of sexual crimes to come forward.

• A system of mandatory reporting should be examined where professionals who become aware of information or evidence that a child has been abused should be under a legal obligation to notify others.

• Each agency which has a role to play in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults should ensure they comply with relevant policies.

• There must be regular checks to ensure that those policies are being properly and fully put into practice.

• All relevant inspectorates should ensure their inspection regimes and programmes are designed to report on how well these policies are being applied at a local level.

Paedophile claim from 1998 stayed secret after being classed ‘sensitive’

Police restricted access to intelligence that could have exposed Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes because it involved celebrity, blackmail and paedophilia, the report has revealed.

A letter received by Scotland Yard in 1998 claiming the DJ was a paedophile was classed as “sensitive”, meaning other investigators could not find it, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found.

“The 1998 MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] anonymous letter was marked as ‘sensitive’ because of Savile’s celebrity status and because there were allegations of blackmail and paedophilia. This categorisation meant that the intelligence was not readily available to be searched by later investigating officers,” the inspectors said.

Scotland Yard sent the letter to West Yorkshire Police, which covers the area where Savile lived, but other investigators could not access the information until 2011.

In 2007, Surrey police investigated three complaints made against Savile, later tied in with an allegation made to officers in Sussex.

HMIC found that, had Surrey Police known about the 1998 letter and a complaint against Savile received by Scotland Yard in 2003, the investigation would have been pursued more vigorously.

The HMIC report also found Savile’s celebrity status impeded investigations.

“It is absolutely clear to us as a result of this review that one of the reasons why allegations were not made at the time, or investigations were not conducted as they might have been, centres on Savile’s status,” it said. “He was a well-known national celebrity, praised for his substantial fundraising efforts, and a household name to many.

“That fact alone allowed him access to institutions in a way that those without celebrity status would have been denied.

“We wonder, as a result, whether those responsible for investigating potential criminal offences had a different approach to dealing with allegations against those in the public eye.”

The report added: “There might well have been the thought that, in order to charge a man such as Savile, there had to be that extra piece of evidence; that piece of evidence that had to be conclusive; that second or third witness to the crime – just to be sure that bringing proceedings against him was justified.”

It said that officers in Sussex had Savile’s status in mind when they carried out interviews, and that the victim was told it would be difficult for a prosecution to take place against “a big celebrity”.