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Savile probe opportunity 'missed'

Published 12/05/2015

A woman said she had been attacked by Jimmy Savile
A woman said she had been attacked by Jimmy Savile

Jimmy Savile could have been investigated while he was still alive - but police mishandled a complaint of sex abuse against him, a report has found.

Sussex Police missed an opportunity to investigate and interview the late entertainer in 2008 - three years before his death, t he Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said

Detectives at the force did not follow all lines of inquiry properly after a woman alleged in March 2008 that she was sexually assaulted by the late entertainer in a caravan in Worthing in 1970, the watchdog said.

Although there was no evidence that officers deliberately dissuaded the woman from pursuing the allegation, she felt reluctant to do so following contact with police, the IPCC's concluded.

It is the latest in a series of reports criticising authorities for failures in relation to Savile, whose prolific sex offending was only exposed after his death.

IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: "Greater efforts should have been made by police to investigate the allegation and to encourage the woman to support an investigation.

"She showed considerable courage in coming forward to police, but regrettably she felt that the two officers who visited her had a negative attitude towards her pursuing her allegation.

"Not sending a trained female officer, coupled with the perceived absence of support, resulted in a missed opportunity by Sussex Police to investigate Savile in 2008."

Two male officers, a constable and a sergeant, who visited the woman in March 2008 were both experienced CID detectives - but n either was separately trained as a full-time sexual offence liaison officer.

The IPCC said the force's own policy at the time highlighted the possibility that sex offence victims might have reservations about talking to officers of a different gender.

The woman - referred to as Mrs A - told the IPCC that she was the victim of a serious sexual assault by Savile in 1970 when aged in her early 20s after meeting him at a Chelsea Pensioners' event at Worthing Town Hall.

She did not report the incident to police at the time but did inform her then husband, who wrote a letter to Savile challenging him about his actions.

She described how she had been "severely affected" by her experience and finally contacted a newspaper about it in 2008 after watching a documentary about the former Jim'll Fix It presenter.

A journalist encouraged her to contact police and she was visited by two officers.

She said the detective sergeant - referred to as Officer A - was "nice and friendly" but claimed his colleague, a detective inspector referred to as Officer B, was a "bully man" who asked "are you getting money for this?" and made negative comments as she described the assault.

Mrs A said she felt "they tried to frighten me off" and claimed Officer A described Jimmy Savile as a very powerful man.

She said she was told she would have to go to the High Court in London and Savile would have "the best lawyers in the country" who would make "mincemeat" out of her.

The woman also claimed both officers burst out laughing when Officer A said "well, he didn't get his breakfast so he had to have his dinner" as she described how Savile behaved after the assault.

She described the impact of the officers' visit as leaving her feeling "awful and shattered" and later decided not to support an investigation into her complaint, the report said.

When interviewed by the IPCC, Officer A denied that they tried to persuade Mrs A not to pursue her complaint and said that she seemed very reluctant to proceed. He also denied that he had laughed or was dismissive, adding that he did not see his colleague act in this way.

Officer B said that he could not remember specifics of the conversation, adding that the speed with which they attended to speak to the complainant indicated that they took the matter seriously. He said he could not remember Mrs A being unhappy with them.

An Acting Detective Chief inspector, who reviewed and closed the case in April 2008, told the IPCC that without the woman's support it would be difficult to prove a sexual offence had taken place.

He denied that he had closed the investigation prematurely and maintained he made his decision based on the evidence available to him, and that it could have been reopened if new information emerged.

The report concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, it is clear that Mrs A and her partner felt their interaction with Officers A and B "led directly to Mrs A not pursuing her complaint of sexual assault".

It found that there was no evidence to suggest Savile's celebrity status had any impact on the investigation.

In all, four officers were subject to the inquiry - with the IPCC finding none had a case to answer for misconduct, but saying there were potential performance issues that needed to be addressed.

Sussex Police said it co-operated fully with the IPCC investigation, adding: "We note they agree with our view that the four officers referred to have no case to answer for misconduct."

The force said its policy on investigating sex offences now "fully takes into account" all issues raised by the report.

During the investigation into the woman's complaints, it was established that Surrey Police had launched a similar investigation relating to allegations against Savile.

Sussex Police said: "However, the woman who made the Worthing allegation did not wish to give evidence in court, and in the absence of other corroborating evidence, a decision was therefore taken by supervising detectives not to take further action in that case.

"Nonetheless, details of the Sussex report were forwarded to Surrey and were amongst the material submitted by Surrey Police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who subsequently decided that there should be no criminal proceedings against Savile."

The four officers were not suspended during the IPCC investigation and continue to work as operational CID officers.

An NSPCC spokesman said: " This was yet another missed opportunity to bring Savile to justice.

"We know from calls to our helpline that some of his victims were traumatised for many years and would have found some comfort if he had been convicted for committing his foul crimes."

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