Savile: police’s shameful role

IN the immediate aftermath of the revelations concerning disgraced presenter Jimmy Savile, the first question on many lips was how had he been able to get away with it for so long?

With the publication of the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, that question has now been answered – casting the police’s handling of sexual abuse claims in an appalling light.

The pattern was set as far back as 1963, when a male victim who reported an allegation of rape was advised to “forget about it” and “move on”.

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Even four decades later, one of the late DJ’s victims was presented with a series of hurdles by Sussex Police which included an officer warning that Savile’s lawyers would make “mincemeat” of her if the claims were put before a court. This attitude unquestionably dissuaded others from coming forward – HMIC found that only five allegations were made against Savile between 1955 and 2009, in stark contrast to the 450 received after his death in October 2011.

Notwithstanding the fact that attitudes to such offences may have been markedly different in the past, the police’s repeated failure to act on allegations and information provided by concerned members of the public was a disastrous dereliction of duty; their failure to investigate allowing Savile to go on committing his vile crimes unchecked.

Dazzled by his star status, police treated him as a special case. Complaints and evidence of wrongdoing were marked as “sensitive” or “restricted”, meaning they were not known to other forces and it was impossible to “join the dots”. It essentially rendered Savile fireproof – not least because individual victims believed they were alone.

The presenter even bragged that he had regular social meetings with senior West Yorkshire officers, a claim that is rightly the subject of an ongoing investigation.

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Most disturbing of all, however, is the fact that the HMIC report concludes that inconsistencies in the way that allegations are recorded by individual forces could again result in a serial sex abuser evading the clutches of the judicial system.

Savile’s victims have been denied justice once – it would amount to a second heinous betrayal if the many lessons to be learned from this long and sorry saga now went unheeded.