Sustained sexual abuse highlighted by the Jimmy Savile case will happen again unless a national police body is set up, Manchester’s chief of police has warned.
On the day in which a highly critical report was released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary blaming police failings for Savile remaining free to sexually abuse hundreds of young people, Sir Peter Fahy also criticised the court system for deterring victims of sex crimes from coming forward.
This comes a month after it emerged Frances Andrade, the victim of disgraced former Chetham’s School of Music teacher Michael Brewer, committed suicide during the trial.
Sir Peter identified problems in the way the 43 UK police forces share intelligence, which could allow a predator such as Saville to operate undetected.
In an open statement, he said: “Although we now have had a police national database operational since 2011 to enable forces to share intelligence it has to be acknowledged that having 43 separate police forces in England and Wales and no national headquarters for policing makes achieving consistent national standards all the more difficult.”
The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police said the high levels of publicity given to sex cases involving celebrities and the trauma for the victims of reliving their experiences in the courtroom were ‘sadly highlighted’ by Mrs Andrade’s case.
Mrs Andrade killed herself at her Surrey home on January 23, days after giving evidence in the trial of Brewer and his wife Hilary.
She had been visibly shaken by the line of questioning adopted by defence barrister Kate Blackwell QC, telling her: “You are hugely insulting, even though it’s your job.”
Sir Peter said: “We can continue to criticise individual members of staff for individual failings but this ignores the complexity of these issues and the way that our system of criminal justice affects the victims of sexual offences.”
“Whatever other evidence is collected prosecutions for sexual offences rely hugely on the evidence of the victim. In a case of burglary the victim will not be blamed for leaving the front door unlocked.
“In sexual offences the behaviour of the victim, whether they had been drinking, any weaknesses of character how they were dressed may well be picked over at great length in the court room.”
He added that sexual predators usually pick on vulnerable victims with other problems in their lives, who will fear not guilty verdicts and invariably shy away from discussing their trauma publicly.
On the issue of a national force, Sir Peter said: “There is little public support for a national police force as is being created in Scotland but while localism has many strengths it does make it more difficult when cases cross boundaries and when we are trying to achieve national standards.”