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Police get more sex offence reports

There has been an increase in the reporting of historic sexual offences since revelations about Jimmy Savile, according to new research.

Figures obtained from police forces by BBC Radio 5 live provide evidence of the so-called "Savile effect", with victims of sexual abuse prompted to come forward by disclosures that the late presenter was a serial sex attacker.

The number of sexual offences recorded by police across the UK increased by more than 9% after the broadcast of a programme about Savile aired on ITV on October 3 last year.

BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast submitted a Freedom of Information request to all 45 UK police forces, asking the number of allegations of offences under the Sexual Offences Act recorded by the force between October 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, April 1, 2012 and September 30, 2012 and October 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

Some 34 of the forces - all of which replied to the study - saw a year-on-year rise in recorded sexual offences. There was a 9.2% rise overall in the six months from October 1, 2012, compared to the same six-month period a year before. Offences rose from 30,267 in the period from October 2011 to March 2012 to 33,048 from October 2012 to March 2013.

The biggest rise was in Bedfordshire, which saw a 92% rise in recorded sexual offences year on year. The second biggest was in West Yorkshire, Jimmy Savile's local force, which saw a 66% rise in recorded sexual offences year on year, up from 938 offences in the six months to April 1 2012, to 1,560 in the same period a year later (the six months after the Savile programme aired).

West Yorkshire Police say 79 of the recorded crimes in the most recent period related to Savile, and that he alone accounted for 12% of the rise. In the 12 months before the programme was shown, sexual offences were down 5%, year on year. Separate research for the BBC suggests that a number of the fresh allegations relate to claims of historical abuse.

Detective Superintendent Karena Thomas, head of public protection unit for Bedfordshire Police, said: "While we recognise there has been a considerable increase in reported sexual offences, the actual number of crimes committed remains very small in comparison with overall crime. Changes to such small numbers creates significant percentage increases however and there are a number of reasons for this and it is important that we put the figures in some context.

"We have seen an increase of around 40% in historic sexual offences being reported, a result of publicity around Operation Yewtree (the investigation into allegations of sex offences against Savile and others). There is a dedicated team of officers within the Safeguarding Units that are trained and experienced in dealing with offences against children and to support victims throughout these disclosures and investigations."

Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green said: "Child abuse is abhorrent and offenders must be brought to justice. Police are bringing more cases before the courts and significant sentences are being handed down to perpetrators. It is vital that we learn the lessons from past and current cases to ensure victims are not left to suffer in silence. A new Home Office-led group will look at how to better identify those at risk and create a more victim-focused culture within the police, health and children's services."

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