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New Sussex Police rap on Savile abuse cases
Sussex Police should have interviewed Jimmy Savile about an allegation of sexual assault.
The force has come under fire from the police watchdog for failing to question the former Top of the Pops presenter after a Worthing woman said he attacked her Last night senior officers admitted they had blundered by not questioning Savile – now considered to be one of the nation’s most prolific paedophiles.
A report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) today is the latest to criticise Sussex Police’s handling of the case, saying that an officer who did not properly understand the law was sent to investigate.
The officer had incorrectly told the victim that corroboration would be needed from independent witnesses and that Savile’s lawyers would “make mincemeat” of her if she went ahead.
The HMIC said: “The investigating officer demonstrated a regrettable lack of understanding concerning the law and practice in relation to sexual offences.”
The officer then tried to close the case by incorrectly recording that no crime had taken place and Savile was never questioned about the allegations.
A spokeswoman for the force said a different policy had been in place since 2008 but could not say whether officers now properly understood the law.
The HMIC report, titled “Mistakes were made”, criticised Sussex officers for incorrectly trying to close the case as “no crime had taken place”.
Eventually the case was closed and the file marked “complainant declines to prosecute” on the advice of a senior officer. Savile was never questioned.
'Cult of celebrity'
The HMIC condemned the decisions as “neither usual nor good police practice”. The force had already come under fire from the director of public prosecutions for the handling of the case.
Sussex officers were also criticised for paying too much attention to Savile’s celebrity status.
The report said: “Perhaps in the days when the cult of celebrity held the public’s attention more raptly, the quest for justice for Savile’s victims was made that little more difficult by those whose duty it was to protect the vulnerable in our society.”
Sussex Police deputy chief constable Giles York said: “I believe that victims of sexual crimes in Sussex can be very confident that their cases will treated compassionately and professionally.
“We will study carefully this new report to ensure we understand all the further lessons that can be learned.”
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