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Sex fiends Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall 'untouchable'

Report clears BBC but says culture of fear allowed stars to prey on young

By Kate Ferguson and David Wilcock

The BBC missed a string of opportunities to stop child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, an inquiry has found.

In a 1,222-page report, Dame Janet Smith said the body bred a culture of deference in which stars were "untouchable".

BBC director-general Lord Hall said the findings represented a "dark chapter" in the broadcaster's history and apologised.

But lawyers for some of Savile's victims branded the £6.5m report an "expensive whitewash" after Dame Janet found senior figures did not know of the abuse.

Dame Janet's review found there was a culture of "reverence towards celebrities and an anti-whistleblower atmosphere".

When in the 1980s a female employee complained to her supervisor that she had been sexually assaulted by Savile, she was told "keep your mouth shut, he is a VIP", the report discovered.

Dame Janet said: "Savile and Hall were serial sexual predators. Savile was a danger to young people, both girls and boys. Stuart Hall targeted and groomed young girls, often (using) alcohol. Both of these men used their fame and position to abuse the vulnerable.

"The culture at the BBC enabled Savile and Stuart Hall to go undetected for decades. I have identified five occasions where the BBC missed an opportunity to uncover their misconduct."

The corporation missed chances dating back to the late 1960s to stop Savile, who died in October 2011 aged 84 never having been brought to justice for his crimes.

Savile assaulted two teenage girls in the Top Of The Pops studio. But when they complained, they were brushed off, and one was escorted out of the building.

He first struck in 1959, raping a 13-year-old girl, but he was still using his fame to prey on others five decades later when he assaulted a woman.

Dame Janet found that a number of BBC staff were aware of Savile's offending, or had heard rumours, but she cleared the broadcaster of knowing about it.

Eight complaints about Savile's behaviour were made to BBC staff as early as the late 1960s, but each time they were brushed off.

In the mid-1970s Ian Hampton, of the pop group Sparks, tried to raise the alarm after spotting Savile leaving the Top Of The Pops studio with a young girl, but he was told not to be ridiculous.

Dame Janet said there was a culture of not reporting complaints and a fear of saying anything that might "rock the boat".

She warned there was a particular fear of whistleblowing, which she was told "still exists today". "There was a feeling of reverence for them (stars) and a fear that if a star were crossed, they might leave the BBC," she added.

Refusing to rule out the possibility that a child abuser could be lurking in the BBC today, she said: "The power of celebrity makes detection even more difficult."

Dame Janet's report found 117 people at the BBC heard rumours about Savile, but ruled the organisation as a corporate body was not told. This sparked an angry backlash from some victims.

Liz Dux, from Slater and Gordon Lawyers, which represents 168 victims, said: "My clients will feel let down that the truth has still not been unearthed, and many will feel it is nothing more than an expensive whitewash."

Dame Janet denied this accusation, saying: "It isn't a whitewash. It is right that 117 witnesses told the review they had heard rumours about Savile (but) 180 witnesses told me that they had not."

Lord Hall said the BBC bore responsibility for making Savile and Hall famous and "could have known" about their abuse. He added: "Today , we are hearing the worst. It is very sobering."

The BBC has paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to Savile's victims.

Belfast Telegraph


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