Sunday 18 February 2018

Establishment was too dazzled by the spell of celebrity to look behind Savile's mask

Jimmy Savile and Prince Charles in 1999
Jimmy Savile and Prince Charles in 1999

Steven Swinford

Jeremy Hunt, the British Health Secretary, will apologise to dozens of hospital patients who were abused by Jimmy Savile amid new allegations about the "horrific" scale of the abuse.

Mr Hunt said that the power of celebrity or money must never again blind people to repeated clear signals that extremely vulnerable people are being abused.

He repeated an apology to the victims of the disgraced celebrity as he told the British House of Commons that people were either "too dazzled or too intimidated by the nation's favourite celebrity to confront the evil predator we now know he was".

He confirmed he would accept 13 recommendations in principle made by Kate Lampard, who was appointed by the Department of Health to oversee the investigations.

But the Tory frontbencher said he would not be accepting the recommendation that all NHS volunteers should be subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Hunt acknowledged that the Government apologised last summer for allowing Savile's "terrible abuse" to go unchecked.

He said: "Today I repeat that apology. What happened was horrific, caused immeasurable and often permanent damage and betrayed vulnerable people who trusted us to keep them safe.

"We let them down."

He added: "Today we must show by our deeds as well as our words that we've learned the necessary lessons."

Mr Hunt said the new reports were "extremely distressing", with a total of 177 men and women coming forward with allegations of abuse by Savile.

He said these allegations covered a period from 1954 to shortly before Savile's death in 2011.

Mr Hunt said at least 72 of those who gave evidence were children at the time of the abuse, the youngest aged five, with allegations including rape, assault, indecent assault and inappropriate comments or advances.

The allegations were linked to institutions including more than 41 acute hospitals, Mr Hunt said, as he noted this was almost a quarter of all NHS acute hospitals.

On Stoke Mandeville, Mr Hunt said there were no suggestions ministers or officials knew about Savile's activities but accepted governance processes were not followed. He said ministers made the expedient decision to use Savile not just to raise funds to redevelop Stoke Mandeville's national spinal injuries centre but to oversee the building and running of the centre, even though he had "no relevant experience".

Mr Hunt said: "Because of his celebrity and useful fundraising skills, the right questions, the hard questions, simply were not asked.

"Suspicions were not acted on and patients and staff were ignored. People were either too dazzled or too intimidated by the nation's favourite celebrity to confront the evil predator we now know he was.

"Never again must the power of money or celebrity blind us to repeated clear signals that some extremely vulnerable people were being abused," he added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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