British Report on Savile Scandal Details 200 Cases of Sexual Abuse

The New York Times: The British police and the country’s leading child welfare group drew a horrific picture of more than 200 cases of sexual abuse of children as young as 8 by the television host Jimmy Savile in a report released on Friday, and prosecutors admitted for the first time that they could have brought Mr. Savile to trial before his death in 2011 but failed to do so.

The depiction of what Peter Spindler, a police commander, called a “vast, predatory and opportunistic” record of misconduct offered the latest gruesome indictment in a scandal that has plunged the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Savile’s longtime employer, into crisis; drawn in a mounting tally of suspects and victims; and raised questions about the protection of children from predators in supposedly safe institutions.

In the process, Mr. Savile’s public image has been transformed. Once seen as a zany national treasure with a near-saintly commitment to charitable work with children — knighted by Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II — he is now blamed for one of Britain’s most extensive catalogs of abuse.

“It is clear that Savile cunningly built his entire life into gaining access to vulnerable children,” said Peter Watt, a senior official of the children’s advocacy group, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, speaking at a joint news conference with police officials.

The report said Mr. Savile used his status as a celebrity to “hide in plain sight” as he committed criminal offenses in 28 police jurisdictions over nearly six decades.

The locations included the premises of the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster; a home for disturbed adolescent girls; and 14 medical facilities, like hospitals, mental health units and a hospice. The cases covered the years 1955 to 2009. The youngest victim was an 8-year-old boy, the report said, and the oldest was 47.

Separately, the Crown Prosecution Service acknowledged that three victims who accused Mr. Savile of abuse in 2009 were not taken seriously enough. “I would like to take the opportunity to apologize for the shortcomings in the part played by the Crown Prosecution Service in these cases,” Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement.

According to the report, the majority of the victims — 73 percent — were under 18. A total of 450 people came forward to accuse Mr. Savile after the scandal exploded in October, and the police concluded that the number of crimes he is accused of committing totals 214, 34 of them rapes.

Most of the victims were 13 to 16, and 82 percent of them were girls, the report said.

The offenses peaked between 1966 and 1976, the report said. “His peak offending came with the peak of his success,” said Detective Superintendent David Gray, who works in a Scotland Yard unit investigating sexual crimes against children.

During his time at the BBC, Mr. Savile played a central role in two shows — “Top of the Pops,” featuring rock bands playing their latest hits, and “Jim’ll Fix It,” in which Mr. Savile responded to requests from viewers. Both shows gave him direct access to audiences of young people, some seeking his advice and help on “Jim’ll Fix it.” His charitable work also took him to hospitals and other health facilities in his hometown, Leeds, in the north, to Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, near London.

Detective Gray said Mr. Savile must have thought about abuse “every minute of every working day.”

The bald statistics gave a clearer insight into the scope of the accusations against Mr. Savile, which the prosecutor, Mr. Starmer, depicted as a “watershed moment” in Britain’s handling of abuse cases.

Commander Spindler said Mr. Savile “cannot face justice today, but we hope this report gives some comfort to his hundreds of victims.”

The report raised some questions about the culture of the era in which Mr. Savile rose to prominence as television audiences grew, feeding in part on a revolution in pop music. “It was an age of different social attitudes, and the workings of the criminal justice system at the time would have reflected this,” the report said.

There have also been questions about the motives of some of his accusers.

In an introductory passage of the 37-page report, the authors addressed an issue that has caused concern among legal experts, Savile family members and others who have argued for caution in face of the avalanche of allegations: Mr. Savile, who died in October 2011, cannot defend himself, nor can the accounts of his accusers be tested in criminal proceedings.

“An issue that has understandably been raised is that as Jimmy Savile is dead there can be no criminal prosecutions against him and the testimony of his victims cannot be challenged in the courts,” the report said.

But the authors, in effect, turned this argument on its head, saying that the “lack of criminal proceedings — and justice for victims” persuaded them that the information gathered in their three-month investigation “should be put into the public domain.”

The report acknowledged that not all the victims who have come forward have been interviewed by the police. Nonetheless, it said, “the patterns and similarities of the offenses and behaviors” that have come to light so far have convinced investigators that most victims are speaking the truth.

“On the whole, victims are not known to each other, and taken together their accounts paint a compelling picture of widespread sexual abuse by a predatory sex offender,” the report said. “We are therefore referring to them as ‘victims’ rather than as ‘complainants,’ and are not presenting the evidence they have provided as unproven allegations.”

The scandal began to emerge when “Newsnight,”a flagship current affairs program on the BBC, canceled an investigation into accusations of sexual abuse by Mr. Savile in late 2011, shortly after his death and just before the network broadcast lavish Christmas tributes to him.

As the scandal grew, it forced the resignation of the former director general of the BBC, George Entwistle. Police officials said last month that 589 people leveled accusations, mostly against Mr. Savile but also against other high-profile figures. Police detectives have questioned 10 men about sexual accusations that they all deny. Six more men, who have not been identified by name, are under investigation.

A report commissioned by the BBC concluded last month that lax leadership hampered by “rigid management chains” left the network n “completely incapable” of dealing with the crisis over Mr. Savile’s behavior.

A 200-page report by Nick Pollard, a veteran British broadcast executive, censured editorial and management decisions relating to the cancellation of the “Newsnight” broadcast in 2011. But Mr. Pollard absolved top management of applying “undue pressure” in the decision to stop the broadcast.

The report also did not challenge the assertions of Mark Thompson, the head of the BBC at the time, that he had no role in killing the Savile investigation and was unaware of the sexual abuse accusations until he left the BBC last September. Mr. Thompson is now president and chief executive of The New York Times Company.