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Privacy rules for the Police National Database protected sex offender Jimmy Savile

A single comment from the review illustrates the issue. “We also note that the 2003 MPS report was marked ‘restricted’, seemingly as a direct consequence of Savile’s status,” says the review. It was restricted because he was a celebrity; but because it was restricted, different police forces were unable to connect the dots to see the wider picture.

Had they been able to do so, the police could have stopped Savile any time from 1964 onwards. “West Yorkshire Police should also have received details of: the 1964 ledger; the 1998 anonymous letter; and the 2003 MPS report. West Yorkshire Police was not able initially to retrieve any of these records.” Originally this was because of a lack of adequate intelligence sharing between different police forces (originally exposed by the equally horrific Huntley case in Soham). This led to the development of the Police National Database.

“It is almost unheard of that a major national infrastructure project can be traced back to a single event, but the Police National Database (PND) is one rare example. In 2002, children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were murdered by school caretaker Ian Huntley. The subsequent public inquiry (the Soham inquiry) recommended that all UK police forces should share intelligence held on their individual systems,” wrote Logica.

That PND should have been enough to catch Savile; but it seems to have fallen foul of the Police’s own awareness of its own corrupt officers – amply illustrated in the fall-out from the press phone hacking scandal. “Information on high-profile suspects was marked as secret or restricted and available to only a small number of officers – a system that may have helped prolific offenders such as Jimmy Savile escape prosecution, the Times has said,” as reported by the Guardian today.

Metropolitan police commander Peter Spindler said: "Any high-profile or sensitive case will be restricted on our systems because we are not going to let 50,000 people (Met officers and staff) across London read sensitive material about celebrities, politicians or other high-profile people. We have had some officers and staff who were prepared to leak information to the media for payment and the mechanism to prevent that was to restrict access to that information.”

It illustrates the tension that exists between sharing data by and for law enforcement, and protecting the privacy rights of people who are – in theory at least – innocent until proven guilty.

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