Jimmy Savile victims 'appalled' Boris Johnson is 'trying to weaponise their suffering'

Victims of sex offender Jimmy Savile are "appalled" by Boris Johnson's attack on Keir Starmer in the Commons and have accused the prime minister of trying to "weaponise their suffering", according a lawyer whose firm represented them.

The embattled PM, in his attempts to defend himself over Sue Gray's critical partygate report, wrongly claimed the former lawyer failed to prosecute the paedophile when he was head of the CPS.

In the Commons debate on the Sue Gray report, Mr Johnson claimed Sir Keir, the former director of public prosecutions, "used his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile".

Richard Scorer, whose law firm represented many of the disgraced entertainer's victims, told ITV News: "I've spoken to a few of our former clients today and they are universally appalled by this.

"What angers them more than anything else is that idea of Johnson trying to weaponise their suffering in order to get out of a political hole."

Sir Keir told ITV's Good Morning Britain that accusation is a "slur, it’s untrue", a conclusion Full Fact came to when it investigated the claim in June 2020.

But Mr Johnson's spokesperson, when asked about the comments during a briefing with journalists, said: "The prime minister stands by what he said in the House."

He also refused to repeat the claim, saying doing so he would not be in line with the principle of civil service impartiality.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said "procedurally nothing disorderly" occurred in the PM's accusation, but told MPs: "I am far from satisfied that the comments in question were appropriate on this occasion."

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who had been sent out to defend Mr Johnson in a round of broadcast interviews on Tuesday morning, told ITV News he could not substantiate the PM's claim.

Attempting to justify his boss's attack, Mr Raab said it was "part of the cut and thrust in the crucible of the House of Commons chamber".

But former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who now sits on the backbenches, said the PM's comments were "wrong & cannot be defended".

In a tweet, he added: "False and baseless personal slurs are dangerous, corrode trust & can't just be accepted as part of the cut & thrust of parliamentary debate."

Sir Keir, asked about the PM's claim, told Good Morning Britain: “It’s a slur, it’s untrue, it’s desperate from the prime minister.

“I was really struck yesterday in the House at how many Conservative MPs were disgusted at that untruth from the despatch box.

“Of course on our side, people were disgusted. But his own MPs couldn’t believe their prime minister had stooped that low.

“He’s degraded the whole office. And this is how he operates. He drags everybody into the gutter with him.

“Everybody he touches, everybody that comes into contact with him is contaminated by this prime minister.”

Nazir Afzal, a former chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, responded to Mr Johnson's comments by saying that the reference made aboutF Savile by Mr Johnson was "a disgrace to Parliament & office of Prime Minister".

He wrote on Twitter: "Its not true. I was there. Keir Starmer had nothing to do with the decisions taken. On the contrary, He supported me in bringing 100s of child sex abusers to justice."

Full Fact said Sir Keir was head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the decision not to prosecute Savile was made on the grounds of "insufficient evidence", adding: "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 Mr Starmer was personally involved in the decisions made."

The independent fact-checking organisation concluded: "Mr Starmer was head of the CPS when the decision was made not to prosecute Savile but he was not the reviewing lawyer for the case.

"An official investigation commissioned later by Starmer criticised both prosecutors and police for their handling of the allegations."

Savile died in 2011 aged 84 having never been brought to justice for his crimes. He is now believed to be one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.