Janet Smith’s review: police consulted throughout review of star’s sexual abuse at BBC
By David Hencke, Alex Varley-Winter and Mark Watts | 20 January 2016
Dame Janet Smith worked closely with police during the course of her inquiry into BBC star Sir Jimmy Savile to avoid prejudicing ongoing criminal investigations.
The retired judge makes clear how she avoided prejudicing such cases in the draft report of her “review” of the late Savile’s sexual attacks at the BBC, which has been leaked to Exaro. This includes the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Yewtree’, which has been investigating allegations against Savile and others of child sex abuse.
The leak raises further questions about why publication of Smith’s review has been delayed since last May.
“I do not feel that I can hold up delivery of this report indefinitely” – Dame Janet Smith, review report
Smith writes: “We liaised closely with the Metropolitan Police ‘Operation Yewtree’ team. In order to avoid compromising any future criminal prosecution, we established a memorandum of understanding with the police investigators.
“The review agreed to seek the authority of the Metropolitan Police before any witness was called for interview.”
Smith continues: “There are also some people, of whose identities we are aware, who have given their stories to the police, but the police do not wish us to interview them until their own investigations are complete.
“Because of the possibility that those women might be required to give evidence in a criminal trial in future, we have not been able to invite those women to the review.”
Smith refers to Duncroft approved school, where Surrey Police found that Savile had sexually abused girls.
But prosecutions on that investigation were ruled out in 2014.
Smith says: “Other former pupils of Duncroft have come to the review’s attention as potential witnesses. Some allege or wish to allege abuse by Savile not only at Duncroft but also on BBC premises, putting their evidence squarely within my terms of reference.
“In each case, the review has sought permission from the police to interview the women but, in several cases, permission has been refused.
“I do not feel that I can hold up delivery of this report indefinitely in the hope that this embargo will be lifted, so I have decided to write such an account as I am able on the evidence presently available to me.”
Exaro has read the entire report, and it contains no details that could possibly prejudice any identified ongoing case.
The nearest example concerns a witness who says that Savile took him from the set of Jim’ll Fix It to a dressing room and abused him there. The witness says that a second man, whom he has never been able to identify, came into the room and joined in the abuse.
Smith says: “The review contacted the Metropolitan Police to seek their permission to conduct the interview with [the witness].
“In the event, the police agreed that we could conduct the interview with [him], but must not ask him any questions about what happened when the second man came into the room. We did as requested. The procedure was rather artificial but was the best we could do.”
Police could investigate the matter if the witness were able to identify the second man. This, however, seems unlikely. Indeed, Smith says that the police eventually gave her permission to interview the witness again “to discuss with him the reasons he had changed his account.”
She writes: “He then explained that he had found talking about the second stage of the abuse even more embarrassing than the first, and had not felt able to speak about it until some time after his first disclosure.
“After discussing this with him I am quite satisfied that his account was true and that both men had abused him.”
As Exaro prepared to publish the leak, the Smith review issued the following statement this afternoon: “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. The review is carrying out final checks in advance of delivery to the BBC and publication. Publication should take place within six weeks.”
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