Police forces across Britain have come under fire for ignoring Jimmy Savile's abuse victims as it emerged the disgraced presenter could have been stopped as early as 1964.

Policing inspectors have said there is a "distinct possibility" that officers could fail to prevent another Savile-like scandal from happening again.

Just five allegations and two pieces of intelligence were recorded against Savile during his lifetime, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found.

This is in stark contrast to the 450 claims made against the former Top Of The Pops presenter after Operation Yewtree was launched by Metropolitan Police in October.

The earliest record uncovered by HMIC naming Savile in connection with a sexual abuse investigation is dated 1964, but officers failed to act on the intelligence received.

A damning report by Met Police and NSPCC said Savile's offending spanned from 1955 to 2009, meaning his reign of abuse could have been cut short by 45 years.

Alan Collins, a solicitor from law firm Pannone who is representing more than 40 of Savile's victims, said further opportunities to investigate Savile were lost.

"Consequently, Savile was able to carry on regardless, duping the country in the process, and the price was paid by his many victims.

"There is a definite risk that unless policies and attitudes change, Savile will happen again," he said.

Complaints to police

As well as the 1964 Scotland Yard ledger, a record of an anonymous letter was found that was received by Met Police in 1998, alleging that Savile was a paedophile.

In addition, five victims also made complaints against the presenter: one to the Met in 2003, three to Surrey in 2007 and one to Sussex in 2008.

HMIC also expressed concern that other police forces did not deal with complaints properly with eight victims claiming that they tried, unsuccessfully, to report crimes.

This includes four who approached the Met and one each who went to police in Cheshire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire and the then Royal Ulster Constabulary respectively.

One man who came forward in 1963 in Cheshire to make an allegation of rape against Savile was told to "forget about it" and "move on", HMIC said.

Another went to Vine Street police station in London to report that his girlfriend was assaulted at a recording of Top Of The Pops and was warned that he "could be arrested for making such allegations" and sent away.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Drusilla Sharpling said: "The findings in this report are of deep concern, and clearly there were mistakes in how the police handled the allegations made against Savile during his lifetime."

Considering whether such abuse on a similar scale could happen again, Ms Sharpling said it is neither "enough nor correct to say this couldn't happen now".

The HMIC report warns that "the inconsistencies in approach that the forces have taken mean that there is a distinct possibility that such failures could be repeated".

British Home Secretary Theresa May said: "The public rightly want answers to how victims' voices were ignored for so long.

"This report brings into sharp focus police failings that allowed Savile to act with impunity over five decades.

"While we can never right this wrong, we must learn the lessons to prevent the same from ever happening again."

She said she had ordered urgent work to ensure that the interests of victims are prioritised and the specific vulnerabilities of children are recognised and addressed.

The 1964 intelligence record naming Savile also contains the first known reference to Duncroft School, the children's home in Staines, Surrey.

Duncroft was at the centre of Savile's criminal behaviour.

The HMIC report recommended that the recently formed professional body the College of Policing should issue guidelines to all police forces about how to deal with investigations of child abuse following the death of the alleged perpetrator.

In view of the low reporting rate, the police service and the College of Policing should also establish ways to encourage the reporting of sexual crimes.

A legal obligation should also be considered for anyone who becomes aware of potential child abuse in the course of their professional duties to flag their concerns to others, the reports said.