An inquiry into the BBC’s culture and practices got under way with the broadcaster reeling from allegations of child sex abuse perpetrated by the late Jimmy Savile, one of its biggest stars.
The probe begins a year to the day since the death of Savile, the eccentric presenter now considered one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, with some 300 alleged victims coming forward in recent weeks.
It also starts a day after 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter, a convicted paedophile, was questioned on suspicion of sexual offences, the first arrest in the widening police probe into the activities of Savile and others around him.
Janet Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, is heading an independent review into the British Broadcasting Corporation’s culture and practices during the decades that Savile worked for the national institution.
Smith, who led the inquiry into the British serial killer Harold Shipman, will also examine whether the BBC’s child protection and whistle-blowing policies are fit for purpose.
In addition, her remit includes the extent to which BBC staff were aware of Savile’s conduct on the broadcaster’s premises.
Meanwhile Britain’s top police officer said complaints to various forces while Savile was alive could have been put together to show a “pattern of behaviour”.
Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe told reporters: “You might have thought that people would at least have talked about it and intervened.
“It does look as if from time to time people have been concerned, they’ve made the start to intervene, but probably then they’ve relied a little bit too much on his reputation and his word that he did nothing.
“Probably it appears that people haven’t intervened when they’ve had suspicions.”
Ex-colleagues have said there were rumours about the bachelor throughout his lifetime, and seven alleged victims filed complaints to the police while he was alive — though none led to his arrest.
However, an ITV documentary earlier this month — which took its cue from a shelved investigation by the BBC current affairs programme “Newsnight”, the subject of another independent probe — saw a handful of women make abuse allegations.
Dozens have come forward since, triggering a crisis at the BBC described as a “tsunami of filth” by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, who chairs the corporation’s BBC Trust governing body.
A former chairman of the BBC’s charity Children in Need revealed on Monday that he had refused to work with Savile, whom he called “a pretty creepy sort of character.”
“When I was with Children in Need we took the decision that we didn’t want him anywhere near the charity and we just stepped up our child protection policies,” explained Roger Jones.
Police are dealing with around 300 alleged victims and following more than 400 lines of inquiry.
Savile’s abuse “possibly spanned 50 years”, said Hogan-Howe.
The police, the BBC and other organisations “have had individual allegations that have not been put together to actually show that this person may well have shown a pattern of behaviour that’s been pretty awful,” he added.
Savile died aged 84 at his parkside penthouse in his home city of Leeds, northern England.
The claims against Savile have plunged the BBC into crisis and destroyed the reputation of a man who, with his garish tracksuits and ever-present cigar, was one of the most famous faces on British television from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Glitter, 68, was the first person arrested under the operation, being taken from his plush central London home to be questioned. He was bailed to return in mid-December.
The king of the glam rock era, Glitter — whose real name is Paul Gadd — sold more than 20 million records and had a string of hits like “I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)” and “Rock and Roll (Parts 1 and 2)”.
Glitter was convicted in Vietnam in 2006 of “obscene acts” with two girls aged 11 and 12. He served nearly three years in jail before being deported.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]