DPP Kier Starmer QC asked his Principal Legal Advisor, Alison Levitt QC, to examine the Crown Prosecution Service’s decisions in relation to the four allegations made to Surrey and Sussex Police in 2007 and 2008, that Savile indecently assaulted girls and young women in the 1970s.
Levitt found that whilst there was nothing to suggest that the decisions not to prosecute were consciously influenced by any improper motive on the part of either police or prosecutors, “[h]aving spoken to the victims I have been driven to conclude that had the police and prosecutors taken a different approach a prosecution might have been possible.” (In the matter of the late Jimmy Savile: Report to the Director of Public Prosecutions, January 2013.)
Accepting Levitt’s conclusions in full, the DPP said: “If this report and my apology are to serve their full purpose, then this must be seen as a watershed moment.
“In my view, these cases do not simply reflect errors of judgement by individual officers or prosecutors on the facts before them. If that were the case, they would, in many respects, be easier to deal with. These were errors of judgment by experienced and committed police officers and a prosecuting lawyer acting in good faith and attempting to apply the correct principles. That makes the findings of Ms Levitt’s report more profound and calls for a more robust response.”
Starmer proposes wholescale changes to the approach of police and prosecutors to credibility in sexual assault cases. Testing the suspect’s account should be equally important as testing that of the complainant and new guidance will be issued to that effect. Greater support is recommended for complainants and more thought is to be given to the use of pre-recorded cross-examination of child witnesses (see Counsel, ‘Time to Change the Rules?’, November 2012, p 32); and the extent to which vulnerable complainants can be subjected to repeated cross examination.
Joint Police/CPS panels will be set up to enable those who have made allegations of sexual assault in the past to have their cases looked at again and greater information-sharing duties established across the Criminal Justice System.
Levitt is to conduct a number of training exercises on the revised approach.