Failings in police investigations in Savile case

The police have been criticised for their failings in investigating complaints of sexual assault against Jimmy Savile as early as 1963.

Sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile emerged after his death and the report states that Police forces mishandled complaints and missed opportunities to apprehend Jimmy Savile, a critical report says.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary said forces did not understand the depth of the late DJ’s sexual offending.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Drusilla Sharpling said she was “shocked” by the extent of his crimes.

Sir Peter Fahy, of Greater Manchester Police, warned weaknesses in the system meant such failings could happen again.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularly (HMIC) – which was commissioned by the home secretary to find out how much police knew about Savile before he was exposed as a sex offender in 2012 – also warned that failures to share intelligence on a prolific offender could happen again.

Ms Sharpling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Savile’s celebrity status had played a part.

“It’s clear that because of Savile’s celebrity status, people were looking for that extra piece of evidence, behaving with an extra sense of caution because of the power he wielded,” she said.

The former presenter of the BBC’s Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, who also worked as a Radio 1 DJ and received a knighthood in 1990, died aged 84 in October 2011 – a year before the allegations were broadcast for the first time in an ITV documentary.

The police watchdog said it had found five reports made to the police about Savile prior to his death and two pieces of intelligence, all of which had been mishandled in different ways.

A joint police and NSPCC report released in January outlined offences committed by Savile over 50 years at a number of venues, including BBC premises, schools and hospitals.

The allegations uncovered by HMIC include:

A missed opportunity to investigate Savile in 1963 when a male victim reported to Cheshire police that he had been raped by Savile. An officer told the victim to “forget about it”. Cheshire Police says it can find no record of the allegation.

A man who reported to police in London that his girlfriend had been assaulted at a recording of Top of the Pops and was warned that he “could be arrested for making such allegations” and sent away.

In 1964 intelligence about Savile was entered into a ledger used by the Met’s paedophile unit. It said the DJ had visited an address used by girls who had absconded from Duncroft Approved School in Surrey. There is no record of any investigation.

Anonymous allegations sent to the Met in 1998 in a letter that described Savile as a “deeply committed paedophile”.

In 2003, the Met also compiled a crime report relating to a complaint about a 1970s incident.

In 2007, Surrey Police compiled a report after complaints from three victims and the following year a Sussex report focused on a complaint from one victim.

The HMIC report said: “Both officers (from Sussex and Surrey) appear to have alerted each other to the reluctance of their respective victims and both decided that neither was able to support the other. As a result, opportunities for mutual support were lost.” There is reluctance for victims to come forward, naturally if they are scared or anxious, particularly if the alleged offender is high profile, therefore every encouragement should be made to reassure the victim that just because the suspect is well known that the investigation will be still dealt with professionalism and diligence.

The watchdog said that police had systems and processes to enable forces to “join the dots” and to spot patterns, but these had been either used incorrectly or not at all.

Mrs Sharpling said it would be wrong to claim the same failures could not happen again, so therefore changes need to be implemented. I find it incredulous that in this day and age there are no national systems in place to be able to access all the information required. It makes it seem unjust in behalf of the victims and frustrating for investigations.

“Clearly there were mistakes in how the police handled the allegations made against Savile during his lifetime,” she said.

“However, an equally profound problem is that victims felt unable to come forward and report crimes of sexual abuse.”

She told the BBC that it must become an obligation on professionals of all kinds to report child abuse, and the use of the police database had to be “slicker” and “more comprehensive”.

Now clearly policing has changed a lot since the 1960’s and if we’re honest reports of this nature, especially with high profile people, were not taken as seriously- but attitudes of officers have changed so much. It’s wrong, totally wrong, and had the reports been dealt with properly in the first place and investigations taken place, then perhaps other victims would not have suffered. Who now would tell someone to go away for reporting a sexual assault?- however, we cannot put right what has been done but serious lessons should be learnt and changes implemented.
Attitudes towards sexual offences have changed and are more victim focused and taken more seriously, but part of the issue was the fact that Savile was a high profile man, and of course, doing so much charity work and doing so much good for children, how would he be capable of doing anything like this? This was a man who was seen to be so caring and sharing and so charitable, of course he wouldn’t do such a thing.
Since then other high profile famous people have been dealt with expeditiously and their victims complaints taken seriously. I do hope that the officers who told people to go away and not take on the reports or deal with the investigations can sleep at night because, as a result of their actions, Savile was allowed to continue with his behaviour and he had 99% of the nation fooled in to thinking he was so charitable when in fact he was in situations where he was a predator and who know how many other offences he committed that remain unreported.
People have said that some are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, seriously? It can take years for someone to come forward because they are scared or traumatised, and when something like this is high profile and numerous victims, some think ‘safety in numbers’ and knowing there are others makes them feel a little more at ease, and knowing attitudes are different now feel they can to come forward.
If you were sexually assaulted by a high profile person it would be harder to go to the police in the first place- you have the initial fear of reporting it and then to say who it was and to feel you were being taken seriously must have been terrifying.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who commissioned the report, said it had brought into “sharp focus police failings that allowed Savile to act with impunity over five decades”.

“The public rightly want answers to how victims’ voices were ignored for so long. While we can never right this wrong, we must learn the lessons to prevent the same from ever happening again.”

In a statement, the Met Police said: “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.”

Correct procedures over the decades have become more stringent and there is a very comprehensive trigger plan in place to deal with these types of allegations now, whereas, although followed, the procedures back then were very different. No computer systems, no way of alerting other stations let alone forces- and these type of allegations were dealt with in a way that in this day and age we find incredulous – thankfully times have changed.
High profile cases need to be dealt with a little more sensitively because of the media and social networking and evidence needs to be comprehensively collated- and whoever you are, famous or not, once arrested for any offences of sexual assault, the stigma of that arrest stays with that person, so it is so important to investigate it thoroughly and get as much evidence as possible before the person is arrested so if they have committed that offence they have enough evidence to convict. What we don’t want is for someone to walk free for the sake of a technicality or lack of evidence.

Cheshire Police said it would be working with colleagues in the Metropolitan Police “who are progressing enquiries relating to allegations which fall under Operation Yewtree”.

In the wake of last year’s revelations, police received about 450 allegations spanning several decades. Operation Yewtree assessed 214 of them as being definite crimes, including 32 of rape.

Sir Peter warned that having 43 separate police forces in England and Wales and no national headquarters for policing made achieving consistent national standards “all the more difficult”.

“We can continue to criticise individual members of staff for individual failings but this ignores the complexity of these issues and the way that our system of criminal justice affects the victims of sexual offences,” he said.

“There is little public support for a national police force as is being created in Scotland but while localism has many strengths it does make it more difficult when cases cross boundaries and when we are trying to achieve national standards.”

This is where a national computer system with access to all forces reporting offences and intelligence needs to be implemented. I don’t think this necessarily requires a National Police Force in order to do this but National Police systems need to be in place. Currently we do have the Police National Computer in which you can check on a persons arrest/conviction history, however you are unable to see if they have been involved in crime before from another force area. In this day and age all officers should be able to have access to this type of information, both for crimes and intelligence to ascertain the previous history of that person.
For example if a person lived in Bristol (Avon and Somerset Police) and had been a suspect or a person of interest for several offences, and then moved to a different force area (eg Hampshire) you would not know this information and even if they had been arrested the PNC will not give you the full details. This information would be gained by contacting that force. By having a national system you would be able to see any crimes committed or any intelligence submitted from any part of the country. This information is so important and clearly these systems need to be put in place. This would speed up investigations and access to intelligence about that person when dealing with them makes the investigation more thorough.

As I said at the beginning, we cannot change what has happened, but what we can do is implement changes to make information nationally available and instantaneous so for future incidents we deal with someone expeditiously and have the full offending history (other than just arrests and convictions). This isn’t just about high profile people like Savile but for all.

I am so glad that attitudes have changed towards sexual offences and are taken more seriously than decades ago, and now we need to move our systems in place efficiently so people like Savile will not be able to commit offences and get away with them for so long, and due to failings which could be so easily rectified, deal with suspects early enough that they cannot commit offences for decades with nothing being done- famous or not.



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  1. […] The police have been criticised for their failings in investigating complaints of sexual assault against Jimmy Savile as early as 1963. Sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile emerged after h…  […]

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