December 4, 2021

British Report on Savile Scandal Details 200 Cases of Sexual Abuse

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.

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Gordon Brown Says Newspaper Hired ‘Known Criminals’

The claims came a day after the crisis deepened with reports that two Murdoch newspapers may have bribed police officers or used other potentially illegal methods to obtain information about Queen Elizabeth II as well as Mr. Brown.

At the same time, two former journalists for The News of the World — the newspaper at the epicenter of the scandal, which the Murdoch family closed last weekend — said that police officers had been bribed to use restricted cellphone-tracking technology to pinpoint the location of people sought by the papers in their pursuit of scoops.

Since flying to Britain over the weekend, Mr. Murdoch has assumed command of damage control efforts at his London headquarters amid a torrent of new revelations, including reports that newsroom malpractice extended far beyond The News of the World to two other newspapers in his British stable — The Sunday Times, an upmarket broadsheet, and The Sun, the country’s highest-selling daily tabloid.

On Tuesday, Mr. Brown accused The Sunday Times — owned by News International, the British subsidiary of Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation — of employing “known criminals” to gather personal information on his bank account, legal files and “other files — documentation, tax and everything else.”

“I think that what happened pretty early on in government is that the Sunday Times appear to have got access to my building society account, they got access to my legal files, there is some question mark about what happened to other files — documentation, tax and everything else,” Mr. Brown, who was Britain’s Labour prime minister from 2007 to 2010 after serving for a decade as chancellor of the Exchequer, told the BBC on Tuesday.

“I’m shocked, I’m genuinely shocked, to find that this happened because of their links with criminals, known criminals, who were undertaking this activity, hired by investigators working with the Sunday Times,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown added: “I just can’t understand this — if I, with all the protection and all the defenses and all the security that a chancellor of the Exchequer or a prime minister has, am so vulnerable to unscrupulous tactics, unlawful tactics, methods that have been used in the way we have found, what about the ordinary citizen?”

The Guardian newspaper reported earlier that Mr. Brown’s bank, Abbey National, alerted him that someone acting for The Sunday Times had posed in his name — a practice commonly referred to as identity theft, or blagging — to obtain details of his account six times in 2000, when he was chancellor. The BBC said that the effort was made as part of an inquiry by the paper into allegations that Mr. Brown had bought a property in his native Scotland at below-market value, something Mr. Brown has strongly denied.

But the most damaging aspect of the affair involving Mr. Brown related to his son Fraser, now five years old, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Mr. Brown told the BBC on Tuesday that he had never publicly discussed his son’s medical condition. But a person close to Mr. Brown said on Monday he believed that The Sun gained access to his son’s medical records for an article about his illness that ran in November 2006, four months after the boy’s birth.

Mr. Brown said on Tuesday that he and his wife Sarah were “in tears” when they learned that details of the health issue were going to appear in the newspaper.

The BBC, quoting its sources, said the information about the boy’s condition had been obtained first by The Sunday Times, and passed to The Sun. Mr. Brown said that Rebekah Brooks, then The Sun’s editor and now News International’s chief executive, called him to tell them that the tabloid knew of the boy’s condition, which they had believed was something known only to themselves and medical professionals who were caring for their son.

John F. Burns and Jo Becker reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris. Ravi Somaiya, Don van Natta and Graham Bowley contributed reporting from London.

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