Shipman judge and ex-Sky News chief to head BBC's Savile sex abuse reviews

  • Former head of Sky News to lead review into Newsnight Savile documentary
  • Dame Janet Smith to review child protection and 'whistleblowing' policies
  • BBC will also appoint independent expert to look at sexual harassment claims

A former Court of Appeal judge who led the inquiry into mass killer Harold Shipman will jointly head the BBC's independent reviews stemming from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations.

Dame Janet Smith DBE will be joined by ex-Sky News executive Nick Pollard in overseeing the two separate inquiries which the corporation announced last week.

Dame Janet will lead the examination of the "culture and practices of the BBC" during the years Savile worked there.

And Pollard, a former head of Sky News, will look into whether there were any "failings" in the way a Newsnight report into claims against Savile was handled.

The planned news report was dropped late last year and there have been repeated suggestions the decision was made because the BBC was already planning to do more favourable programmes, claims which the BBC has repeatedly denied.

BBC director-general George Entwistle said last week that he was launching the Newsnight inquiry to shake off the "clouds of suspicion".

The Pollard review will also look into the handling of material that may have been of interest to the police or other authorities and will begin "as a matter of urgency". He will be given legal support independent of BBC management.

In addition to looking at the BBC during the Savile years, the Smith Review will examine if the corporation's child protection and "whistleblowing" policies are up to the job.

Dame Janet – whose inquiry will not begin until police indicate they are happy for it to proceed – will be assisted by an expert in child safeguards.

Her review will include evidence from people who have made allegations about being sexually abused by Savile on BBC premises or while on location for the corporation.

And it will hear from those who claim they raised concerns either formally or informally about his activities.

Dame Janet will also look at "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".

Her review will examine whether BBC culture enabled "the sexual abuse of children to continue unchecked".

Dame Fiona Reynolds, who chaired the BBC Executive Board which commissioned the reviews, said: "These reviews will demonstrate the BBC's determination to open itself fully to scrutiny from independent experts, emphasising our belief that the basis of the public's trust is full openness and accountability."

Police believe the DJ and television presenter's alleged catalogue of sex abuse could have spanned six decades and included about 60 victims.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has said there is no need for a wider inquiry into Savile's activities while the police investigation was going on.

She said it was crucial that detectives were allowed to continue their investigation "unfettered" by other inquiries.

Savile's long-time producer on children's TV show Jim'll Fix It said he was completely unaware of the presenter's activities and said the star managed to "hoodwink" him.

But Roger Ordish said he did know that Savile had a "predilection for younger females".

In his first interview since the disclosures about Savile's alleged abuse of possibly dozens of underage victims over a period of many years, he described the presenter as a "manipulative" man.

But he told ITV1's This Morning he saw no abuse during the two decades in which he worked with the late TV and radio host.

"I didn't see anything and nothing was reported to me," he said.

During their years working together, Ordish said Savile, whom he described as a private man who "compartmentalised" different areas of his life, even stayed at his home.

"He slept in a bedroom next to my 14-year-old daughter and I hope that is some indication that we had no suspicions of anything of this nature at all," he said.

The disclosures about Savile's private life were made in an ITV documentary a fortnight ago which had dismayed Ordish.

"I was absolutely shocked and shattered and I was surprised that I had not been approached by the programme," he said of the Exposure documentary.

He told This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby there had been rumours, but added: "You hear rumours about everybody famous, there must be rumours that go around about you two.

"We were aware that Jim had a predilection for younger females," he added, saying it was obvious from the way he chatted to girls.

Ordish said Savile would compliment them on their beauty, "but nothing obscene".

"These are girls who are young females, they're not children. They could have been 14 looking like 18, but they were not children in my definition of the word," he said.

Entwistle did not take part in discussions around the decisions surrounding either the terms of reference for the reviews or the appointment of the two heads.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten wrote to Entwistle today to confirm the acceptance of the details of the reviews.

And he added: "The Trust take the allegations that have been made extremely seriously and wants you to make every effort to ensure that the inquiries have access to the resources they require to undertake their role comprehensively, as well as the full cooperation of BBC staff and executives."

In a further move, the BBC is also to appoint an independent expert to look at sexual harassment claims and practices.

It comes after staff have come forward to make allegations about other inappropriate conduct to which they say they have been subjected over the years.

The BBC expert will help in "assessing claims of sexual harassment from the 1970s to the present day", with the aim of giving proper support to "anyone with a complaint".

The person appointed will work alongside the BBC's own human resources department to review sexual harassment policies and processes.

Entwistle said: "The allegations that have arisen in the last few weeks that date back decades have truly shocked me.

"I want to be absolutely sure that we have dealt with any cases from the past fairly and properly.

"If there are lessons we can learn then we must do so to ensure that the mistakes of the past should never be repeated."

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