A charity has claimed West Yorkshire Police officers were “groomed” by Jimmy Savile, after an internal inquiry cleared the force of covering up his decades of sexual abuse.
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) said officer friends of the disgraced former entertainer were “seduced” by his celebrity status, as West Yorkshire Police published the findings of an investigation into Savile’s relationship with the force.
The force’s Operation Newgreen inquiry has revealed 68 abuse victims in West Yorkshire, but none had made formal complaints while Savile was still alive.
Among the review team’s lines of inquiry was a focus on the informal contact between the former DJ and police officers, especially at his notorious social get-togethers, dubbed the Friday Morning Club.
While the report highlighted an “over-reliance on personal friendships” between Savile and some officers, and said “mistakes were made” in handling intelligence, it concluded there was “no evidence” Savile was ever protected from arrest or prosecution thanks to his relationship with the force.
Pete Saunders, chief executive of NAPAC, said: “What screams out from the report is that Jimmy Savile groomed police as well as grooming many other people. Of all the people who shouldn’t have been groomed, your friendly local police force are top of the list.
“I think they, like a lot of people, were starry eyed and seduced by his celebrity status.
“The other thing that struck me was that there seemed to be lots of opportunities to have spotted that this person’s behaviour was way out of order and that something should have been done.
“There was very little communication between police forces but also within the police force itself. Savile clearly made some very good friends.
“You hear people asking why victims didn’t come forward. Is it any surprise when this man was going for cups of tea with his local police force?”
The Friday Morning Club gatherings saw both retired and serving police officers, some of whom were on duty, get together at Savile’s penthouse flat in Roundhay Park for tea and conversation.
The report revealed eight police officers attended the club over 20 years, with four meeting there regularly.
Savile claimed he would pass what he described as “weirdo” letters to the police officers who attended the Friday Morning Club, who would take them away and deal with them. However, the inquiry found no evidence to substantiate the claim and denied officers were guilty of “any impropriety or misconduct”.
Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee admitted officers may have been duped by Savile, saying: “Paedophiles are manipulative, coercive people. That’s how they are able to commit their crimes and I can’t see that police officers would be resistant to that if they haven’t got information to tell them anything to the contrary.”
While clearing officers of wrongdoing, the inquiry found failings in the way intelligence was handled and shared between forces – which may have highlighted “a potential pattern of offending”.
It also found officers continued to use Savile in crime prevention campaigns even after concerns were raised about his involvement in Duncroft School in Surrey, where he is accused of abusing pupils. When Surrey Police wrote to Savile two years later asking him to make contact a West Yorkshire Police inspector replied on Savile’s behalf, saying, “Jimmy gets so many of these type of complaints”.
In addition an anonymous letter received by the force in 1998 alleged Savile was a paedophile but it was never put on a database or dealt with, the review said.
Assistant Chief Constable Lee said: “When taken in context, Savile lived for over 80 years as an individual who has duped millions into believing that he was a genuine celebrity, a charity fundraiser and a harmless eccentric who did nothing but good in our communities.”
Solicitor Alan Collins, who is representing 43 of the disgraced DJ’s victims, said the report left questions unanswered. He added: “Whilst the report exonerates the police officers of misconduct, it fails to adequately address the relationship West Yorkshire Police enjoyed with Savile and how this influenced their judgement, either collectively or on the part of individuals.”