BBC abuse reports: Corporation ‘missed chances to stop attacks’

DJ Jimmy SavileStuart Hall

(Media Release) The BBC repeatedly failed to stop “monstrous” abuse by DJ Jimmy Savile and broadcaster Stuart Hall because of a “culture of fear”, a report says.

The Dame Janet Smith review identified 72 victims of Savile, including eight who were raped, and 21 victims of Hall.

She said BBC culture “was deeply deferential” and staff were reluctant to speak to managers about complaints.

Director General Lord Hall said to the victims: “The BBC failed you when it should have protected you.”

The review found that while senior managers were not told of complaints about Savile because of a culture of fear that still exists, BBC managers in Manchesterwere aware of Hall’s conduct.

Hall was jailed in 2013 after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls.

Dame Janet said Savile, who died in 2011, and Hall were “serial sexual predators” and the BBC missed five opportunities to stop their misconduct.

The inquiry spoke to 117 witnesses from the BBC who said they had heard rumours about Savile.

The review cost £6.5m and its report is 1,000 pages and three volumes long.

Liz Dux, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represents 168 of Savile’s victims, said: “Many victims will feel it was nothing more than an expensive whitewash.”

BBC bosses ‘aware’ of Hall’s sex abuse

Dame Janet Smith report: At a glance

Savile report reaction

Meanwhile, Lord Hall has said DJ Tony Blackburn has “parted company” with the BBC after failing to fully co-operate with the inquiry.

‘Monstrous behaviour’

Lord Hall apologised to the victims and said: “A serial rapist and a predatory sexual abuser both hid in plain sight at the BBC for decades.

“What ( this terrible episode teaches us is that fame is power, a very strong form of power and like any form of power it must be held to account… and it wasn’t.”

BBC Trust chairwoman Rona Fairhead said the corporation “turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light”.

House of Commons leader Chris Grayling said it was “inexplicable” that BBC staff missed opportunities to stop the abuse.

The impartial investigation by Dame Janet, a former High Court judge, was set up by the BBC in 2012 to look at the corporation’s culture and practices during the years it employed Savile – thought to be from 1964 to 2007.

Referring to Savile and Hall, Dame Janet said: “Both of these men used their fame and positions as BBC celebrities to abuse the vulnerable.

“They must be condemned for their monstrous behaviour.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • The victims of Savile in connection with his work at the BBC include eight people who were raped and one instance of an attempted rape. Others faced sexual assaults
  • The majority of the cases took place in the 1970s
  • The largest number of victims was in connection with Savile’s work on Top of the Pops
  • The youngest victim of a sexual assault by Savile was eight years old
  • Eight informal complaints were made
  • Two senior managers are criticised for being “aware” or “probably aware” of Stuart Hall’s sexual assaults on BBC premises

Dame Janet said there was a “culture of separation, competition and even hostility between different parts of the BBC, so that concerns arising in one part would not be discussed with others”.

“Staff were reluctant to speak out to their managers because they felt it was not their place to do so,” she said.

She said celebrities were “treated with kid gloves and were virtually untouchable”.

Who was Jimmy Savile?

In his lifetime, millions knew Jimmy Savile as an eccentric TV personality.

He was one of Britain’s biggest stars, a larger-than-life character who was known for tea time TV favourites such as Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, as well as stints on BBC Radio 1.

He was also, to some, Saint Jimmy, a diligent fundraiser who raised £40m for charity.

But, a year after his death in 2011, allegations of abuse surfaced.

It transpired that he was, in fact, one of the UK’s most prolific sexual predators.

He had been exploiting his status to prey on hundreds of people – girls and boys, men and women, but mostly vulnerable young females.

In 2015, reports on Savile’s links with hospitals and children’s homes revealed the late DJ abused patients, staff and visitors at institutions over many years.

Profile: The Jekyll and Hyde TV presenter

Dame Janet’s investigation into dozens of sexual assaults by Savile heard evidence from more than 700 people.

They included two BBC managers who confronted Savile over claims he took teenagers home from Top of the Pops.

BBC media correspondent David Sillito said the essence of the inquiry was to establish whether senior managers were aware of his offending and how much was just rumour.

Former BBC presenter Savile exploited his celebrity status to abuse hundreds of adults and children across the country, assaulting or raping them in television dressing rooms, hospitals, schools, children’s homes and his caravan.

The abuse is thought to have begun in the mid-1940s, when he was in his late teens or early 20s, and lasted until 2009.

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