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Leaked draft Savile scandal report reveals BBC staff are still afraid to speak out about wrongdoing

By William Turvill

A leaked draft of Dame Janet Smith's report on Jimmy Savile and the BBC has highlighted concerns about the state of whistleblowing in the corporation.

Details of the report, a final draft of which is due to be published within six weeks, have been reported by investigative journalism website Exaro.

Smith reportedly notes in the report that while the BBC has introduced policy to protect whistleblowers, "there is still a widespread reluctance to complain about anything or even for it to be known that one has complained to a third party.

"I found that employee witnesses who were about to say something to the review that was even mildly critical of the BBC were extremely anxious to maintain their anonymity.

"There people were, and still are, afraid for their positions. Even with modern employment protection, people fear that, even if they do not lose their jobs, their promotion prospects will be blighted if they complain.

"It was explained to me that, in one respect, the position is even worse today than it was years ago in that so many people are now employed on short-term contracts or on a freelance basis, with little or no job security.

"Positions at the BBC are very sought after. The feeling that many workers have is that if they make any kind of complaint, they will not be used again. There are many people 'out there' who will be willing and able to take their places."

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Last year, former BBC investigative producer Meirion Jones claimed in an interview with Press Gazette that everyone on the “right side of the Savile argument” – those trying to expose his wrongdoing – has been “forced out” of the BBC.

He also condemned the corporation’s treatment of Karin Ward, a woman who blew the whistle on Savile’s wrongdoing to the BBC. She was later sued for libel by Freddie Starr, but the BBC and ITV failed to support her in court.

In January last year, the BBC was accused of treating its staff “like the enemy” after Press Gazette research under the Freedom of Information Act found an increase in staff being investigated on suspicion of leaking to the media. The corporation monitored ten staff email accounts on suspicion of leaking in 2013 and 27 in the 2014.

In reaction to the figures, a BBC insider said: “We rely on leaks and whistleblowers to get exclusives for our news coverage but the BBC obviously doesn't like it when they think it's their own staff leaking stories.

“The BBC can't afford any bad press with charter renewal and the licence fee negotiations around the corner. Instead of treating its own staff like the enemy, they should be addressing the problems that are painting the BBC in a bad light.”

The leaked draft review by Smith also condemned the BBC for having a "deferential culture", "untouchable stars" and managers who were "above the law".

It also warns that it was possible another "predatory child abuser could be lurking undiscovered in the BBC even today".

Rapes, indecent assaults on both boys and girls, and incidents of "inappropriate sexual conduct" with teenagers over 16 were all "in some way associated with the BBC", the draft report states. Three of Savile's victims were only nine, it adds.

Incidents occurred at "virtually every one of the BBC premises" in which Savile worked, the report said, and more than 100 employees at the corporation told the review they had heard about Savile's sexual conduct.

While staff said they were aware of his behaviour, they were scared to report it to managers, the draft report, published by news website Exaro states .

But Dame Janet accepted denials from senior bosses that they were aware of his sexual activity, according to the leaked document.

And she does not criticise the BBC for not uncovering the abuse, according to the report.

Liz Dux, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represents 168 alleged Savile victims – many of whom where assaulted at the BBC – said: "It is deeply disturbing that this inquiry appears to have concluded the same culture which allowed Savile to commit his appalling offences with impunity still persists today.

"That little has been done at the BBC to prevent another predatory abuser using their celebrity and influence to target the young and vulnerable is of grave concern.

"I find it incredible that 107 people gave evidence to having heard rumours of his depravity and inappropriate sexual behaviour yet no one in a position of authority seemed to be aware.

"Now, more than ever before, mandatory reporting legislation needs to be brought in to make it a crime to turn a blind eye to this sort of offending.

"It also has to be said that Savile's victims who gave evidence to this inquiry will find it upsetting that a report of this nature and sensitivity has been leaked in this way."

A statement on the Dame Janet's review website expressed disappointment at the leak of the draft but said it was out of date.

According to Exaro, Dame Janet says in the report: "My general impression is that most staff (other than those who had been in the higher echelons) felt that the management culture was too deferential and and that some executives were 'above the law'."

The BBC's "talent" was held in "awe" by most staff, who treated them "deferentially", she said, adding: "It would be a brave person indeed who would make a complaint against such a person."

The draft report also outlined the extent of Savile's sexual activities, which it said "took place in virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked."

The locations included the BBC Television Theatre, while on set for Jim'll Fix It, Television Centre in connection with Top of the Pops, and Broadcasting House, where he worked for Radio 1.

Incidents also took place at the Lime Grove studios in London and BBC properties in Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow.

Dame Janet states: "He would indulge in sexual touching while working on the set (of Top Of The Pops or Jim'll Fix It) and on at least one occasion, he was actually on camera.

"Savile would seize the opportunity for sexual contact even in public places such as corridors, staircases and canteens."

Commenting on the leak, a statement on the Dame Janet Smith Review website said: "The Review is disappointed by the decision of Exaro to publish, in breach of confidence, extracts from a leaked copy of an early draft of its Report.

"That document is out of date and significant changes have been made to its contents and conclusions.

"The document should not have been made public and cannot be relied upon in any circumstances.

"The Review will work with the BBC to arrange publication of its final Report as quickly as possible to ensure that accurate and responsible reporting can take place."

The leaked draft was published a day after the review announced that the long-delayed final report would be published within six weeks.

It said this was because "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".

It said final checks were being carried out ahead of delivery to the BBC and publication.

Drafts of the report will have been seen by numerous parties involved in the review.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: "Firstly, my thoughts and all our thoughts are with the victims of Jimmy Savile and their families.

“What happened was a dark chapter in the history of the BBC. 

“Dame Janet Smith’s report will be invaluable in helping us understand what happened and to help ensure that we do everything possible to avoid it happening again. 

“The Review has said that the copy leaked to the media is an early draft which has changed considerably, so while I am impatient to learn those lessons the responsible thing must be to act on the final report which we have not received.

“The Review expects the report to be published within six weeks and we hope it will be published as swiftly as possible."

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