The new chair of the BBC Trust has declined to reopen the Pollard Review into the Jimmy Savile scandal in the fact "crucial" evidence was omitted from it.
Last November, Rob Wilson MP took a journalist’s recording to the Trust in which report author Nick Pollard said he had made a “mistake” by not including evidence from former head of news Helen Boaden where she claimed to have told then director general Mark Thompson – who was cleared of wrongdoing – about the Savile allegations before tribute programmes were broadcast in December 2011.
The Trust, then chaired by Chris Patten, “considered it did not undermine the conclusions of the Pollard report”.
Rona Fairhead, who took over from Patten last month, was asked by Philip Davis MP at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 21 October whether she would revisit “some of the mistakes that were seen to be made by your predecessor”.
She was also written to by freelance journalist Miles Goslett – who made the recording to Pollard’s “mistake” admission and broke news of the BBC’s Savile story spike – on the same day. He asked that, in light of the new evidence, the report should be “amended accordingly”.
Writing back on 10 November, Fairhead agreed that the presentation of the report should be changed on the Trust website – to highlight Pollard’s admission – but she told him it would be “wrong” to reopen it “in the absence of clear and compelling new evidence that has not been previously considered by the Trust”.
The change made to the Trust website page linking to the report was an addition of the following message: “Following publication of the report, Nick Pollard had a conversation with a journalist regarding some information that he had not included in his report. It was suggested that this conversation raised questions about the validity of the conclusions of his review. Nick Pollard confirmed to the Trustees in an account on 10 December (PDF link) that he stood by the conclusions of his report. The Trustees considered this and were satisfied that he properly weighed all the evidence and that the conclusions of his report were unaffected. You can read the full statement published on 11 December 2013.”
The Telegraph’s chief political commentator Peter Oborne described the tape recording evidence as “crucial” and said Fairhead’s response was “hopeless”.
He said: “By refusing to look again at the potential evidence that the Pollard report is a cover-up, Ms Fairhead is sending out the signal that her reign will be a continuation of the moral squalor of the Patten years.
"For all of us who believe in and support the BBC this is very worrying.”
A BBC Trust spokesperson said: "The Chairman has studied the Pollard report and the background to it.
"She has also looked at the questions subsequently raised over the way Mr Pollard dealt with some evidence and is satisfied that those questions were fully and properly considered and dealt with by the Trust in December last year.
"The Chairman has made clear that in the absence of any new evidence, it would be wholly inappropriate to re-open the case.
"However Ms Fairhead has addressed concerns that it might not have been clear to readers of the report that Mr Pollard had conceded he should have made reference to this evidence, by publishing information about the consideration of this issue alongside the report."