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Celebs 'protected over sex claims'
Police files on celebrities and politicians accused of sex assault were so heavily protected that officers investigating claims could not access them, it has been reported.
Information on high profile suspects was marked as "secret" or "restricted" and only available to a small number of officers - a system which may have helped prolific offenders such as Jimmy Savile escape prosecution, The Times has said.
The approach to sensitive files was designed to stop officers from leaking information to the media.
The issue of detectives being unable to access relevant intelligence was highlighted in a report on the effectiveness of the Police National Database (PND) in the wake of the Savile scandal. It came after complaints about Savile made to different police forces across the country while the TV presenter was still alive were not able to be shared by detectives.
Metropolitan Police Commander Peter Spindler confirmed to the newspaper that famous people were protected by high levels of confidentiality built into intelligence systems.
He 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."
But police believe their new PND, launched in 2011, will help prevent similar errors in the future. The system allows sensitive material to be located but accessed only with the right clearance.
Speaking after the report was published last week Chief Constable Mike Barton, the Association of Chief Police Officer's lead on intelligence, said the current system is capable of being interrogated by any trained officer across the UK to "identify suspects, offenders and patterns of behaviour".
The National Association of People Abused in Childhood told The Times that police had put the protection of celebrities before children. But spokesman John Bird added that he believes police are striving to "get it right in future".
The first national shared database for police in England and Wales was set up in 2003, while a later system in 2006 allowed officers to search for intelligence but restricted access to sensitive records.