HMIC expresses serious concerns over why so many victims felt unable to approach the police with allegations against Jimmy Savile during his lifetime

HMIC’s review of allegations made against Jimmy Savile during his lifetime finds mistakes were made by the police; and while policies and practices designed to improve the experience of child victims are now available, we raise serious concerns over why so many victims felt unable to come forward and report what had happened to the authorities.

HMIC asked police forces to provide all information relating to sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile recorded before the launch of Operation Yewtree (05 October 2012). The findings are surprising, given what is now known of Savile’s prolific offending over many decades: the police recorded just five allegations of criminal conduct and two pieces of intelligence information during Savile’s lifetime, with the earliest of these records dating from 1964. In stark contrast, since 2012 more than 600 people have come forward with allegations against Savile. It is of serious concern that so few victims of abuse felt able to go to the police at the time in the knowledge that action would be taken.

Although Savile lived in West Yorkshire for much of his life, the seven pieces of information considered in our report were identified by the police in Surrey, Sussex and London. During the course of this review, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire referred questions relating to the relationship between West Yorkshire Police and Savile to the IPCC.

To improve our understanding of why no specific allegations against Savile were recorded before 2003, HMIC considered policy and practice changes in the police service and the wider criminal justice system over Savile’s period of offending. HMIC found that a child reporting sexual abuse today is likely to be better treated than 50 years ago. But there is still more to do if children are to receive the full protection of the changes that have been introduced since then.

HMIC found that the police made mistakes in their handling of the five allegations and two pieces of intelligence information. While there were systems and processes available that could have enabled the three forces involved to ‘join the dots’ and spot patterns, these were used either incorrectly, or not at all. This resulted in a series of failings: to understand the potential depth of Savile’s criminality; to encourage (given what the report refers to as the ‘Yewtree effect’) other victims to come forward; and to bring about an appropriate prosecution. A related theme identified in the inspection was the isolation each person felt as a result of believing that Savile had not abused anyone else.

While this report found only seven records, HMIC has wider concerns about the way the police manage and use information, and whether national guidance is being given full effect in all forces. HMIC will examine this further as part of its review into child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, which is due to start in Summer 2013.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Drusilla Sharpling, said:

“The findings in this report are of deep concern, and clearly there were mistakes in how the police handled the allegations made against Savile during his lifetime. However, an equally profound problem is that victims felt unable to come forward and report crimes of sexual abuse. It is imperative that all those charged with protecting these victims do more to encourage reporting, taking the right action to bring perpetrators to justice. We welcome the new measures announced recently by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers. But more needs to be done, and it is neither enough nor correct to say ‘This couldn’t happen now’.”

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, said:

“It is imperative that children and other victims of sexual crimes have the knowledge, the means and the confidence to report what has happened to them. HMIC’s report identifies policies and practices which the police must reassess and improve in order to be better able to deal with historical allegations, and to keep our children safe. Building on this examination of Savile, HMIC’s programme for 2013/14 will take this work deeper and wider.”

Notes to Editors

  • A copy of the report, “Mistakes Were Made”: HMIC’s review into allegations and intelligence material concerning Jimmy Savile between 1964 and 2012 can be found on the HMIC website
  • In response to the seriousness and scale of the allegations of child abuse by the late Jimmy Savile, in November 2012 the Home Secretary formally commissioned HMIC to review the recording and investigation of these allegations by police forces across England and Wales.
  • In accordance with the Home Secretary’s commission, we have liaised with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) and Jersey Police.
  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police.
  • For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600. Please note, it is unlikely interviews will be available.
  • HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.