Britain reviews child sexual abuse policy after Jimmy Savile scandal

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's top prosecutor announced a shake-up on Wednesday of the way sexual abuse of children is dealt with in the criminal justice system to prevent a repeat of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Keir Starmer said police and prosecutors needed to change the way they assessed the credibility of victims and should examine potential suspects more closely for patterns of behaviour and links to other cases in deciding whether to pursue an allegation.

The announcement follows public horror at revelations that Savile, who died in 2011 aged 84, used his fame as a star presenter on BBC television and radio to sexually abuse hundreds of children over four decades.

"We cannot afford another Savile moment in five or ten years' time," said Starmer, the director of public prosecutions.

He said new guidance would be drawn up for police and prosecutors based on expert advice, and there would be a new training programme and the potential to re-examine past decisions in abuse cases.

There will also be more support for victims to ensure they have the confidence to report crimes, after a police investigation into Savile found that most of the people he abused did not think they would be believed if they told the authorities.

"If the criteria for testing their credibility match the characteristics that make them vulnerable in the first place, we have a fundamental flaw in the approach to credibility. This has to change," Starmer said.

A police investigation in January concluded that Savile was a predatory sex offender who abused youngsters as young as eight over more than 50 years, hiding "in plain sight" behind his fame and eccentricity to rape and assault victims on BBC premises, in schools and hospitals.

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