Janet Smith: no changes to review’s draft conclusions despite objections to criticisms

By David HenckeAlex Varley-Winter and Mark Watts | 20 January 2016

“Child protection and safeguarding will always be a priority for the BBC, and we will never be complacent” – BBC executive

BBC bosses have known the damning findings of Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry on the corporation’s failings on star presenter Jimmy Savile for over a year.

This is made clear in the draft report of Smith’s “review” of the late Savile’s sexual attacks at the BBC, which has been leaked to Exaro, and was completed over a year ago.

The retired judge writes: “Once the factual chapters of this report had been written and checked and my tentative conclusions had been drafted, letters of potential criticism were sent to… individuals and to the BBC itself.

“In each case, an opportunity was provided for further submissions to be made to the review.”

This confirms Exaro’s disclosure last October that the BBC already had Smith’s damning and lengthy criticisms of the corporation from her draft report. As reported at the time, Smith had not formally submitted her completed report to the broadcaster’s executive board.

Last September, Exaro also revealed how BBC bosses had been trying to delay publication of the review until after the government agrees the broadcaster’s charter renewal. The current charter expires at the end of this year.

BBC managers and former managers had received Smith’s criticisms of them in the report, and were delaying their responses to her as part of a strategy to delay publication, according to well-placed sources.

Exaro reported that it is understood that Smith had watered down the report after receiving strong objections to her criticisms.

Following Exaro’s report in September, Smith issued a statement in which she said: “The recent statement in the media that Dame Janet has changed the conclusions in her report after receiving objections to her findings is inaccurate.”

Exaro’s report had not in fact referred to “conclusions”.

The BBC commissioned Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, in 2012 to carry out a review into Savile’s sexual abuse linked to his work at the broadcaster. Savile was one of the BBC’s biggest stars, on television and radio.

The corporation expanded the inquiry in 2013 to include an examination of another of the BBC’s stars, Stuart Hall, who was convicted of a series of indecent assaults against girls. Dame Linda Jones, a former High Court judge, carried out that review.

Exaro revealed in November how the BBC quietly removed from the Smith review’s terms of reference any examination of the corporation’s policies on child protection and whistleblowing.

Smith is understood to have agreed to the change on the grounds that delays to her review were holding up any necessary changes to the broadcaster’s policies on child protection and whistleblowing.

The BBC instead asked Good Corporation, a company that advises on corporate responsibility and business ethics, to carry out an “independent assessment” of the policies.

Good Corporation published its report last July, praising the BBC for “a clear understanding of what needs to be done to keep children safe.”

It also commended the BBC’s whistleblowing policy, but warned that awareness of it was “extremely low” within the corporation.

The BBC executive published a response as part of the July report, saying: “Good Corporation concludes that the BBC has strong child-protection policies in place and that considerable effort has been made to improve them.”

“The overall conclusions of the Good Corporation’s review are positive, and no serious weaknesses are raised in the report.”

The BBC executive’s response added, “Child protection and safeguarding will always be a priority for the BBC, and we will never be complacent.”

The BBC is expected to point to Good Corporation’s report on its policies on child protection and whistleblowing in its defence against Smith’s criticisms.

In this fifth package of pieces, Exaro today reveals how the draft report shows that Smith avoided prejudicing any ongoing criminal investigation.

We also publish all the extracts compiled by Exaro from Smith’s report, and include a run-down of our extensive coverage of the inquiry and what it finds.

Judge’s inquiry into Jimmy Savile avoids prejudicing police cases

Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

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