British Police Begin Criminal Investigation of Alleged Jimmy Savile Sex Abuse Scandal

on October 19 2012 1:44 PM
Jimmy Savile
BBC host Jimmy Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, is being accused of sexually abusing underage girls. Reuters

The Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal is now a criminal investigation as British police follow up on over 400 leads.

According to Reuters, British police have started investigating the hundreds of child sex abuse allegations directed at BBC presenter Jimmy Savile. While Savile passed away in 2011, British police are looking into accusations that the BBC may have willfully ignored the sex abuse allegations.

Savile was a revered UK celebrity, most famous for his cigar and his role hosting "Top of the Pops."

ITV broke the scandal during a television broadcast of the "Exposure" documentary, which featured interviews with women who claimed Savile sexually abused them. According to some of the women, the victims were as young as 12 when Savile sexually abused them. Some of the women also claimed the sexual abuse occurred on site at the BBC.

Initially, the London Metropolitan Police were reviewing the allegations as Savile is deceased with the help of Scotland Yards. Upon review, there may be other individuals, who are alive, that may be linked to the sex abuse allegations leading to the police investigate the claims as a criminal matter. The review, dubbed Operation Yewtree, had gathered information for two weeks prior to the announcement on Friday.

According to Police Commander Peter Spindler, the police are investigating 400 lines of inquiry and nearly 200 women have made claims of sex abuse, reports the (U.K.) Telegraph. The London Metropolitan Police have also give approval to the BBC to begin their own independent investigation.

Previously, the BBC’s Newsnight program had investigated the claims against Savile last year but had stopped investigated the matter, stating that there was no evidence of the police or the BBC attempting to purposefully ignore the claims made against Savile.  According to the BBC, the Newsnight program was not looking at allegations of sexual abuse, although a leaked internal email stated the Newsnight program put those claims in doubt.

The email by BBC press officer Helen Deller was leaked to the (U.K.) Times. In the email, Deller is preparing ways to handle possible responses to the allegations against Savile and that Newsnight was “focusing on allegations of abuse with victims willing to speak on the record.”

The after effects of the sex abuse claims could be felt in America as well. Mark Thompson, the newly appointed the New York Times Chief Executive and president, was previously the general director for the BBC and is facing questions on the matter as he begins his new role at the New York Times.

In the wake of the criminal investigation, the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal looms large. In the Sandusky scandal, the sex abuse allegations impacted a beloved coach as well as the institution, Penn State University, which he was associated with while that may not be the case with the ongoing investigation of claims against Savile.

The criminal investigation of the sex abuse allegations against Savile is still in its preliminary stages and it is too early to determine if the BBC or any of its officials played a role in covering up the allegations. Police are also investigating possible claims against other celebrities. 

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