The decision not to prosecute Jimmy Savile over abuse allegations in 2009 will come under the spotlight again after the Prime Minister said Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer will review legal papers from the case.
Surrey Police submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service containing references to four potential offences, including an allegation of indecent assault on a young girl at a children’s home, but it was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
David Cameron told MPs it was essential that lessons were learned from the scandal of Savile’s decades of sexual abuse.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “The Director of Public Prosecutions has confirmed that his principal legal adviser will again review the papers from the time when a case was put to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for prosecution.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions specifically is going to consider what more can be done to alert relevant authorities where there are concerns that a prosecution is not taken forward.
“The Government will do everything it can do, other institutions must do what they can do, to make sure that we learn the lesson of this and it can never happen again.”
Mr Starmer said the evidence was considered by prosecutors, but because the alleged victims would not support police action, it was decided not to proceed.
As the number of allegations against Savile has snowballed, Mr Starmer asked the chief Crown prosecutor for the South East, Roger Coe-Salazar, to look at the files again.
He concluded the correct decision was taken, although the files will again be reviewed “out of an abundance of caution”.
Mr Starmer said: “He has assured me that the decisions taken at the time were the right decisions based on the information and evidence then available.
“Whilst it is sometimes possible to prosecute cases where the victim does not support a prosecution, there are obvious problems in proceeding with a case where the victim does not support a police investigation, where there is no forensic evidence and only very limited, or even in some instances no, witness evidence, particularly in relation to allegations which date back a number of years.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I have asked for the papers in the four cases to be provided to my principal legal adviser, Alison Levitt QC, forthwith so that she can consider the decisions made and advise me accordingly.
“This is not a straightforward issue but I have said to the Attorney General that I would like to discuss with him whether the CPS should adopt a policy of referring cases to other relevant agencies, such as social services, where an allegation is made but cannot be proceeded with for evidential reasons.”
Mr Cameron also told MPs the BBC had “serious questions” to answer about how Savile got away with the abuse for so long, adding that he did not rule out “further steps” in addition to the two inquiries into the Corporation already under way.
Children’s charity the NSPCC said it has received 161 calls relating to Savile which have been passed to police.
Earlier today, MP Roger Gale said BBC bosses George Entwistle and Lord Patten may have to “fall on their swords” over the corporation’s handling of the scandal.
Mr Entwistle, who took over as director general last month, was roundly criticised for his appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, where he was told to “get a grip” on his organisation.
And it emerged yesterday that the BBC is also investigating nine allegations of “sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” among current staff and contributors.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale said Mr Entwistle “left questions unanswered” and described some of his answers as “surprising”.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said Mr Entwistle’s evidence to the select committee and the BBC’s handling of the wider scandal raised “very real concerns” about public trust.
In a letter to Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, she said it was vital that the two inquiries were “able to follow the evidence wherever it takes them”.
But Lord Patten’s reply contained a thinly-veiled warning that the Government should not wade into the row.
“I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC,” he wrote.
Gale, a former producer and director of current affairs programmes at the BBC, criticised his approach and said he was “out of touch”.
He said: “Attack may be the best form of defence but in seeking to criticise a Culture Secretary who has not ever sought to challenge the independence of the BBC, he indicates how very little, within that corporate arrogance, has really changed.
“The ’Auntie knows best’ line simply does not wash any more.
“BBC management, over far too many years, has sought to maintain an imperious disdain for criticism and it has become clear that successive directors general have, while happy to criticise others for not answering difficult questions, either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep, which is also culpable.
“It is as if your favourite and respectable aunt has been revealed to be on the game, and if Lord Patten is not able to grasp that, then I fear that not only the director general but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords.”
Mr Entwistle told MPs yesterday that the “broader cultural problem” at the BBC allowed Savile’s alleged behaviour to take place and conceded the corporation was slow to react to the emerging crisis.
He also expressed regret that Newsnight did not press ahead with the investigation last year that included interviews with some of the star’s victims.
The programme’s editor Peter Rippon has stepped aside after a Panorama inquiry prompted the BBC to say his explanation of why the show dropped its investigation was “inaccurate or incomplete”.