It was bad enough to learn that Jimmy Savile committed more than 200 sexual assaults, including 32 rapes, over the course of a lifetime in the public eye. Now it emerges that the police received no fewer than eight complaints against the celebrity DJ and yet still failed to limit his five-decade reign of abuse. Indeed, Scotland Yard’s first intelligence about Savile’s paedophile activities harks back as far as 1964.
Yesterday’s report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is, therefore, an appalling indictment of the police. That society –“back then” – was less alert to sexual abuse than it is now cannot begin to excuse one Savile rape victim being told by officers to “forget about it” and “move on”. Nor is the suggestion that police were cowed into extra caution by the TV presenter’s celebrity any justification.
Hardly less disturbing is the failure of police systems to either allow or encourage officers to share intelligence on such allegations. Had they done so, any doubts about a victim’s claims might have been laid to rest – and Savile accordingly pursued. Others might also have been persuaded to come forward, given the recent evidence that many victims of sexual crime are reluctant to take matters forward until they learn that there are others making similar accusations.
Savile’s links to Duncroft Girls Approved School were recorded by the police in the early 1960s. Three separate police inquiries in 2003, 2007 and 2008 came to nothing because systems and processes designed to allow forces to spot patterns of offending were used incorrectly or not at all. Worse, the repetition of such failures remains a “distinct possibility”, according to the police watchdog. The review into child protection set up by Home Secretary Theresa May must make improving police co-ordination a top priority.