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27 March 2014, 14:04
Claims that disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile abused children in more than 20 children's homes and schools across England, including one in Bournemouth, are to be investigated.
Allegations dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s have been handed to the Department for Education (DfE) following a review of documents by the Metropolitan Police.
Local authorities and other relevant institutions have been asked to further investigate the claims, Education Secretary Michael Gove said in a written statement.
Among children's homes and schools to be further investigated are Henshaw School for the Blind, one of four institutions in Savile's birthplace of Leeds, and a Barnardo's children's home in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Children's homes and schools in focus are spread across England, including Bournemouth, Devon, Gloucestershire, Leeds, London and Manchester among others.
Jane Portman, Executive Director for Adults & Children, said:
“On Tuesday (25th March) we were advised by the Department for Education about an alleged historical incident in a children’s home in the Bournemouth area. This incident is believed to be isolated and relates to Jimmy Savile. It has been referred to us as part of the Metropolitan Police’s national Operation Yewtree.
“We are very concerned to hear of this allegation and are treating its investigation as an urgent priority. Our aim is to establish the facts surrounding the allegation and whether there is any implication for current policy and practice. We will then publish a report which indicates what the investigation covered, any findings and any conclusions reached.
“We fully expect that report to be made available to the public, unless exceptional circumstances apply.
“We must reassure local people that practices to protect children from harm are very different now to the time in which the alleged incident is understood to have taken place. However, we will welcome any recommendations that may arise from the investigation that could further enhance child protection.”
Mr Gove said that, to ensure consistency with the NHS Savile investigations, he would repeat arrangements put in place by the Department of Health to oversee the new inquiries.
Human rights lawyer Lucy Scott-Moncrieff will oversee the process, undertaking a similar role to Kate Lampard in the NHS trust investigations, he added.
"I have asked Lucy Scott-Moncrieff to ensure that investigating organisations take all practicable steps to establish what happened and why at the time of the incidents, and any lessons there might be to inform current safeguarding practice in our schools and children's homes,'' Mr Gove said.
Alan Collins, abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon which represents 140 of Savile's victims, said:
"We welcome any investigation that will uncover further how widespread Savile's abuse was. It is important that we know exactly when, where and how this predatory paedophile committed his horrific crimes.
"Mr Gove's announcement comes in the same week that he said in the Commons Government would investigate the possibility of introducing mandatory reporting for heads of institutions where children and the vulnerable are cared for.
"The victims we represent believe that had such a law been in place when Savile was alive the silence he shrouded himself in which allowed his abuse to go undiscovered for so long would have been broken.
"It is frankly shocking that people in authority who become aware of abuse are still not committing a crime if they decide to cover it up.''
Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile, which was shown on ITV in October 2012, ultimately led to a joint review by the Metropolitan Police and NSPCC into allegations that the television presenter abused women, girls and boys.
The findings of the review, published in January last year, saw 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes, recorded against Savile's name across the UK between 1955 and 2009.
Uncovering the scale of his depravity in their report, detectives said the Top Of The Pops presenter sexually abused a teenager at a hospice, one of 14 medical sites he used to prey on his victims.
He also committed 14 offences at schools across the country, partly when children had written to him for his popular BBC series Jim'll Fix It.
A national investigation known as Operation Yewtree was launched after the abuse claims.
Detectives have run the investigation in three strands - allegations involving Savile, those involving Savile and others, and those involving others.
A number of high-profile names have since been charged under the operation, including veteran entertainer Rolf Harris.