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Yorkshire children’s homes and school at centre of new Jimmy Savile claims

Jimmy Savile.

Jimmy Savile.

Claims disgraced television presenter Jimmy Savile abused children in more than 20 children’s homes and schools across England - including three in Leeds - 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 the children’s homes and schools to be further investigated, three are in the home city of the Leeds-born DJ - Northways Residential School, Beechcroft Children’s Home and Notre Dame Grammar School.

Another institution, the former Henshaws School for the Blind, was listed as being in Leeds by the DfE, though the charity that runs it said today it did not know if the allegations focused on its old school in Manchester or Harrogate.

Harrogate-based Henshaws Society for Blind People said in a statement: “The Secretary of State for Education has announced today that information about Jimmy Saville relating to 17 children’s homes and schools in England dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s has been passed on to those organisations to investigate.

“We can confirm that we are one of the organisations that he has named as looking at historic allegations of abuse that are connected with Operation Yewtree and which refer to events many years ago.

“These relate to contact with the former Henshaws School for the Blind. It is right that steps are taken to explore these allegations, to find out what happened and why, and we will be providing what evidence we can to the enquiry and will be putting as much effort as it takes into providing the enquiry with the information they need.

“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and we committed to ensuring that all those who are vulnerable are protected.”

John Grady, spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds, which runs Notre Dame Grammar School, said: “This is not a new accusation. When it was first brought to my notice shortly after the [ITV] documentary I initiated my own investigation and could find no evidence that Jimmy Savile had any contact with Notre Dame school or any of our [diocesan] children’s homes.

“He did have contact with a children’s home that wasn’t ours but that was one where some of our children resided.

“It doesn’t surprise me that this investigation has been announced - the police have to follow inquiries through to their conclusion.”

In relation to the probes at Northways Residential School and Beechcroft Children’s Home Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council said: “Following the statement by the Secretary of State for Education this morning we can confirm that we have been approached to carry out investigations in relation to two establishments in Leeds.

“We are now liaising with the DfE in order to carry out these investigations. We are unable to comment any further at this stage.”

Other schools and homes in focus are spread across England, including Bournemouth, Devon, Gloucestershire, London and Manchester among others.

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 alleged 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.

 

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