Savile scandal: British prosecutors in gun

The child sex abuse scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile spread from the BBC to British prosecutors as Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review of a 2009 decision not to charge the late television star.

Cameron told parliament that the director of public prosecutions would look into the failure to bring charges of sexual abuse against Savile, the British Broadcasting Corporation star who died last year aged 84.

The scandal has put the BBC on the defensive over criticisms from the government and has even cast doubts over the future of its former chief Mark Thompson, the incoming CEO of the New York Times.

The BBC and other institutions have come under fire for failing to prevent the suspected abuse by Savile, whom police say is now believed to have more than 200 victims, despite decades of rumours about his behaviour.

Police in Surrey near London had examined four claims dating back to the 1970s that Savile had abused girls at a school for children with behavioural problems, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions has confirmed that his principal legal advisor will again review the papers from the time when a case was put to the CPS for prosecution," Cameron told lawmakers.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said in a statement that the 2009 investigation had not resulted in a prosecution because none of the victims were prepared to go to court.

But Starmer said that "out of an abundance of caution", he had decided to order that the cases be reviewed by a senior colleague.

Cameron said the growing scandal around Savile left the publicly-funded BBC with many questions to answer, and hinted that he may yet decide to order a public inquiry.

The BBC has already announced two indepdendent reviews: one into how the abuse was able to happen, and another into the cancellation of a BBC documentary in late 2011 that investigated the claims against Savile.

"These allegations do leave many institutions, perhaps particularly the BBC, with serious questions to answer - I think, above all, how did he get away with this for so long?" Cameron said.

--- 'Questioning the independence of the BBC' ---

For 30 years, Savile was one of British TV and radio's most prominent personalities, and was friends with members of the family including heir to the throne Prince Charles for his prolific charity fundraising.

But following his death a host of claims of widespread child sex abuse have emerged, horrifying a nation that had once regarded his shiny tracksuit and ever present cigar as mere signs of eccentricity.

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten warned the government against infringing the broadcaster's cherished independence.

He was involved in a testy exchange of letters with Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who said that "very real concerns are being raised about public trust and confidence in the BBC".

But Patten - Britain's last governor of Hong Kong before the handover to China in 1997 - replied: "I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC."

In the United States, incoming New York Times boss Thompson denied having any role in the key moment in the scandal - the scrapping of an investigation into Savile by the BBC's current affairs show Newsnight in December 2011.

Thompson, who is due to start at the paper next month, said he had heard about the probe from a reporter at a party last December when he was still director general of the BBC, but only after the show had been axed.

"I did not impede or stop the Newsnight' investigation, nor have I done anything else that could be construed as untoward or unreasonable," he said.

But in a blog on Tuesday, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said the paper must "aggressively cover" Thompson's role in the scandal and said it was "worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job".

George Entwistle, the current director general of the BBC, said in an appearance before British lawmakers on Tuesday he regretted that the broadcaster had dropped the Newsnight investigation.

But he denied that pressure from BBC top management had forced it to do so, saying Newsnight shelved it for editorial reasons.

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