March 31, 2023

Former Judge Opens Inquiry Into Savile Abuse Case

The inquiry by Dame Janet Smith, a retired appeals court judge who once led an inquiry into a notorious serial killer, came as a senior police commander said Mr. Savile’s behavior might have gone unchecked for decades because different British institutions, including local police forces, failed to collate the evidence they had against the flamboyant personality who was seen as a philanthropist and a national treasure.

At the same time, the former head of a BBC children’s charity, Children in Need, said that, even a decade ago, suspicions about Mr. Savile were so prevalent that “we didn’t want him anywhere near” the organization.

Dame Janet’s inquiry is one of two that the BBC has commissioned into the scandal. It began on the first anniversary of Mr. Savile’s death at age 84, and a day after the British police arrested a former pop star, Paul Gadd, better known as Gary Glitter, in the widening scandal. Mr. Gadd has been accused of abusing a teenage girl on BBC premises.

The scandal has exploded since ITV, a BBC rival, broadcast a documentary this month about Mr. Savile and his alleged abuses, opening a floodgate of complaints. The police now say 300 potential victims have come forward.

Much soul-searching and public anger have focused on how Mr. Savile’s misconduct appears to have been widely known among colleagues and police officers who did little or nothing to restrain or prosecute him. Sharpening the questions about the BBC’s conduct, one of the network’s current affairs programs, “Newsnight,” began and then canceled an investigation into Mr. Savile late last year.

Bernard Hogan Howe, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said on Monday that though Mr. Savile was accused a number of times while he was alive, police forces in different parts of Britain never put the picture together.

Much attention has focused, too, on why successive heads of the BBC have said they were unaware of the rumors about Mr. Savile within the organization.

They include the current director general, George Entwistle, and his predecessor, Mark Thompson, the incoming president and chief executive of The New York Times Company. Mr. Thompson was the organization’s head when the “Newsnight” investigation was canceled, a time when other BBC departments were planning holiday tributes to Mr. Savile.

The extent of the mistrust surrounding Mr. Savile emerged from a BBC interview on Monday with Sir Roger Jones, a former BBC governor and the head of the Children in Need charity, who said that he had suspicions more than a decade ago, according to an article on the BBC Web site.

“I think we all recognized he was a pretty creepy sort of character,” Mr. Jones said in the article. “We took the decision that we didn’t want him anywhere near the charity, and we just stepped up our child protection policies — which again would have put him at risk if he tried anything.”

Still, he acknowledged that the charity had only suspicions against Mr. Savile. “If you’re going to go on the attack and make claims against him, then you’d need evidence, hard evidence that simply wasn’t there,” Mr. Jones was quoted as saying.

The other inquiry, led by Nick Pollard, a former head of a rival network, Sky News, is looking specifically into the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the “Newsnight” investigation.

Compared with the public inquiries into the behavior of tabloid reporters and editors in Britain in the phone hacking scandal, which have unfolded in a glare of publicity, the inquiries into the Savile matter at the BBC seemed more opaque. A BBC spokesman and a person representing Dame Janet each said her inquiry began on Monday, but they declined to say who would go before the inquiry, where it was being conducted or whether it would operate in public.

In response to a reporter’s questions, Dame Janet’s representative, Carolyn E. Pepper of the law firm Reed Smith, released a statement saying: “Dame Janet’s view is that it is not appropriate for her to give interviews or provide comment regarding the review at this time. Press information will be issued in due course.”

Her inquiry is meant to gather testimony from people who have accused Mr. Savile of abusing them or who have raised concerns about his activities. It is also supposed to examine “the extent to which BBC personnel were or ought to have been aware of unlawful and/or inappropriate conduct by Jimmy Savile on BBC premises or on location for the BBC,” the BBC said.

She is also supposed to determine whether the BBC’s child protection and whistle-blowing policies are adequate. The BBC has also said it is looking into nine more recent cases related to a variety of sexual harassment and abuse cases, but it has not said who was involved in them.

Both her inquiry and Mr. Pollard’s investigation are supposed to be independent of BBC control, although both were appointed by BBC supervisory bodies.

Article source: