Victims Of Jimmy Savile Say Boris Johnson's Keir Starmer Claims Are "Grubby And Reprehensible"
Victims of child sex offender Jimmy Savile have described false comments levelled at Keir Starmer about the sex offender as “grubby and reprehensible”.
On Monday Boris Johnson claimed that Starmer, who was previously director of public prosecutions, was responsible for the failure to prosecute Savile. There is no evidence that Starmer was involved in the decision not to prosecute Savile, and the claim, which is regularly peddled by the far-right has been debunked.
Lawyer Richard Scorer, a specialist in abuse and human rights, who represented many of the victims of Savile, told PoliticsHome that Johnson’s statement has caused serious upset to many of his former clients, who feel Johnson is using their horrific experiences to his advantage.
“[The victims] felt that it was grubby and reprehensible by the Prime Minister to try to weaponise their suffering to get themselves out of a political hole,” Scorer said.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Starmer accused Johnson of “parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists”, a sentiment echoed by Scorer.
“This sort of smear originated in an obscure corner of the internet and I don’t think there’s any justification for it and I don’t think Boris Johnson should be repeating this kind of thing from the despatch box in the House of Commons,” he said.
Charges were not brought against Savile in 2007 because of the way in which police handled evidence from victims at the time. Starmer was not involved in the decision not to prosecute Savile, and an inquiry was launched into police mishandling of evidence.
“The complainants pulled out and didn’t want to go forward but there was a reason for that, which was to do with the police policy, not the CPS or Keir Starmer,” Scorer explained.
“I hope people would acknowledge as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Starmer did an awful lot to reorientate the CPS towards thinking about the rights of victims.”
Several MPs have expressed fury over Johnson’s remarks, which he has continued to defend. “As far I’m aware, it’s fairly accurate,” he told The Sun.
Chair of the justice select committee, Sir Bob Neill, is the latest Tory MP to call on Johnson to withdraw the comment, and called it “baseless”. Former chief whip, Conservative MP Julian Smith said it is false, cannot be defended and is a dangerous slur. Tory backbencher Simon Hoare also said it was false.
Independent fact checking organisation FullFact have explained that while Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”, the allegations against Savile were dealt with by local police and a reviewing lawyer for the CPS.
A later investigation criticised the actions of both the CPS and the police in their handling of the situation. It did not suggest that Starmer was personally involved in the decisions made.
Starmer said in a statement that he accepted the conclusions of the investigation and that there had been errors of judgement by experience and committed police officers and one prosecuting lawyer.
This morning senior government ministers were also happy to let the statement stand. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, said the Prime Minister did not need to apologise.
Lia Nici, Conservative MP for Great Grimsby, said there were already "streams" of online comments linking Starmer and Savile. But she conceded that she had never encountered the issue on the doorstep prior to Johnson’s comments in the Commons this week.
Starmer has said the notion he personally failed to prosecute Savile was a ridiculous slur peddled by right wing trolls.
He said Johnson had "debased himself" by sinking low by lying, and he had been advised not to do it.
"He doesn't understand what honesty and integrity means," he told Sky News.
"When I was Director of Public Prosecutions I was super-intended by the Conservative Attorney General, so it's as ridiculous as it gets," he said.
Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, has said that he is not satisfied that the comments were appropriate.
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