An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation has found Sussex Police missed an opportunity in 2008 to investigate and interview Jimmy Savile, after mishandling a woman’s report that she had been sexually assaulted by him.
The investigation examined the Sussex Police response to an allegation made by a woman on March 3 2008 that disgraced entertainer Savile had sexually assaulted her in a caravan in Worthing in 1970.
The IPCC investigation found that not all lines of enquiry were properly followed by detectives. While there was no evidence officers deliberately dissuaded the woman from pursuing her allegation, she felt reluctant to do so following contact with police.
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.”
Although the two male officers, a constable and sergeant, who visited the woman in March 2008 were both experienced CID detectives, neither was a separately–trained, full-time sexual offence liaison officer.
Sussex Police policy at the time highlighted that victims of sexual offences may have severe reservations about talking to an officer of a different gender. The policy was however unclear about the use of specially trained officers to investigate historical sexual offences.
Sussex Police has agreed with the IPCC that the officers’ failure to encourage the woman to proceed with her sexual assault allegation, indicated potential performance issues rather than misconduct. The force also accepted that there were potential performance issues for two detective inspectors who had supervisory roles.
Organisational learning for the force in relation to the deployment of specialist trained officers in all cases of alleged sexual offences, along with the need to have a clear audit trail of decision making in a policy file, has already been addressed by Sussex Police. The 2007 Sussex force policy referred to in this report was withdrawn and new guidance issued.