Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Predator warning as draft Savile abuse report damns 'deferential' BBC culture

Another "predatory child abuser" could be lurking at the BBC today, a leaked draft of a report into sexual abuse by broadcaster Jimmy Savile warns.

The review condemns the corporation over its "deferential culture" and "untouchable stars", and criticises it for having managers who were "above the law".

BBC director-general Tony Hall said the review, by Dame Janet Smith, will be " invaluable" in helping the organisation to learn from the past and ensure what he recognised as a "dark chapter" in its history is not repeated.

Rapes, indecent assaults on both boys and girls, and incidents of "inappropriate sexual conduct" with teenagers over the age of 16 were all "in some way associated with the BBC", the draft report states, adding that three of Savile's victims were only nine.

The report also warns that it was possible another "predatory child abuser could be lurking undiscovered in the BBC even today".

Incidents occurred at "virtually every one of the BBC premises" in which Savile worked, the report said, and more than 100 employees at the corporation told the review they had heard about Savile's sexual conduct.

But while staff said they were aware of his sexual behaviour, they were scared to report it to managers, the draft report, published by news website Exaro, states.

Investigations into allegations of sexual assault were "wholly inadequate", and the BBC was criticised for failing to properly examine his personality, despite rumours about him and that he worked with children.

But retired judge Dame Janet accepted denials from senior bosses that they were aware of his sexual activity, according to the leaked document, and she does not criticise the BBC for not discovering the abuse.

She does condemn the corporation for its culture, according to Exaro, saying: "My general impression is that most staff (other than those who had been in the higher echelons) felt that the management culture was too deferential and and that some executives were 'above the law'."

The BBC's "talent" was held in "awe" by most staff, who treated them "deferentially", she said, adding: "It would be a brave person indeed who would make a complaint against such a person."

A statement on the Dame Janet Smith Review website expressed disappointment at the leak of the draft and said it was out of date.

It said significant changes have been made to its content, adding that the report " cannot be relied upon in any circumstances".

The leaked draft was published a day after the review announced that the long-delayed final report would be published within six weeks.

It said this was because "the review has been informed by the Metropolitan Police that it is no longer concerned that publication of the report could prejudice its ongoing investigations".

It said final checks were being carried out ahead of delivery to the BBC and publication. Drafts of the report will have been seen by numerous parties involved in the review.

Commenting after the leaked report, Lord Hall said: "Firstly, my thoughts and all our thoughts are with the victims of Jimmy Savile and their families. What happened was a dark chapter in the history of the BBC.

"Dame Janet Smith's report will be invaluable in helping us understand what happened and to help ensure that we do everything possible to avoid it happening again.

"The review has said that the copy leaked to the media is an early draft which has changed considerably, so, while I am impatient to learn those lessons, the responsible thing must be to act on the final report, which we have not received."

Liz Dux, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represents 168 alleged Savile victims - many of whom where allegedly assaulted at the BBC - said the leaked report's findings were "deeply disturbing".

She said: "That little has been done at the BBC to prevent another predatory abuser using their celebrity and influence to target the young and vulnerable is of grave concern."

She called for legislation to be brought in to make it mandatory to report suspected abuse.

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said the review dealt with "very troubling issues" and the corporation was grateful to those who had come forward.

She said: "We will provide every possible assistance to enable swift publication (of the final report), and make sure the BBC takes all appropriate action to address the report's conclusions."

Jesse Norman, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said if the leaked draft mirrors the final report, it is a "terrible indictment" of the culture of the BBC at the time.


From Belfast Telegraph