Mystery over delay after BBC received damning criticisms from report on Jimmy Savile
By David Hencke, Mark Watts and Tim Wood | 27 October 2015
“The vast majority, if not the entire report, could have been published by now without interfering with ongoing cases” – BBC insider
Mystery deepened over the delay at the BBC in the Jimmy Savile inquiry as Exaro established that it takes account of police concerns about “prejudice”.
Exaro can reveal that Dame Janet Smith, a retired judge, has closely heeded police advice about potential prejudice to their ongoing cases as she worked on her review of the BBC’s failure to stop Savile’s sexual abuse linked to his work at the broadcaster.
BBC sources also revealed to Exaro that Smith has already taken full account of police anxieties about the possibility of prejudicing any current cases in how she has written her long-awaited report.
One BBC insider said: “Everyone will ultimately see how overblown the risk of prejudice was when the review is finally published, even if that is not until next year – or even later. The review as written simply poses no real risk of prejudicing any ongoing case.”
Exaro can also reveal that the BBC received Smith’s damning and lengthy criticisms of the corporation many months ago. However, she is yet to submit her completed report formally to the broadcaster’s executive board.
A second BBC source told Exaro that in her report Smith blames the culture at the corporation for allowing abuse by Savile, one of the broadcaster’s biggest stars, and others to go unchecked over decades.
BBC bosses have been trying to delay publication of the review until after the government agrees the broadcaster’s charter renewal, after several executives received Smith’s criticisms of them in the review.
Well-placed sources, speaking to Exaro on condition of anonymity, say that the BBC as an institution – not just individuals – has received Smith’s draft criticisms as she sought any further comments.
A spokesman for the BBC declined to comment on whether it had received Smith’s criticisms.
But the sources described how the BBC is divided between those who want to brush aside its problems over “an abusive and deferential culture”, and others who want a clean-up of the broadcaster’s “nasty side”.
The second source said that Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, agreed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Metropolitan Police Service to avoid any interference with ‘Operation Yewtree’, which encompasses criminal investigations that sprang out of Savile’s exposure.
Under the agreement, Smith sought the Met’s permission before interviewing any witness in Operation Yewtree. Police sometimes refused, but did allow her to interview some such witnesses. In some cases, even where they gave permission, police imposed restrictions about what she could ask witnesses.
The disclosures raise fresh questions about the basis on which the police have requested a continuing delay in publication.
The BBC Trust is formally responsible for publishing the report, after receiving it from the executive board.
The BBC insider said: “The vast majority, if not the entire report, could have been published by now without interfering with ongoing cases.”
The second source pointed to the broadcaster’s statement that announced the inquiry in 2012, which showed the degree of co-operation between the Smith review and police from the outset. It said: “The Smith review will commence only once the police have indicated they are happy for it to proceed.”
Smith announced in January 2014 that she had agreed to a request by police and prosecutors to delay publication until after the end of a second trial for another of the BBC’s stars, Stuart Hall.
He was convicted in 2013 of indecently assaulting 13 girls. At the second trial in May 2014, he was convicted of a further two sexual assaults of another girl.
At that point, Smith announced another delay, to await the outcome of the case against Dave Lee Travis, a former BBC disc jockey and presenter of Top of the Pops. He was convicted in September 2014 of indecent assault of a 22-year-old television researcher.
BBC insiders thought that the way was clear for publication of the Smith review in November 2014 after Chris Denning, a friend of Savile and one of BBC Radio 1’s original line-up of DJs, admitted 12 more charges of sexually abusing boys, having already pleaded guilty to another 28 counts.
However, Smith says that the report “remains delayed solely” as a result of the Met’s concerns that publication could prejudice ongoing investigations.
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