Revealed: Panorama’s plans to smear survivors of child abuse

BBC seeks to discredit police witnesses and supporters despite scandal over Jimmy Savile

By Mark Watts | 1 October 2015

Revealed: Panorama’s plans to smear survivors of child abuseBBC1’s Panorama is planning to attack survivors of child sex abuse and others who are uncovering evidence of a ‘Westminster paedophile network’.

Many journalists at the broadcaster fear that the programme will prompt a backlash because two established cases of VIP paedophiles were among the BBC’s biggest stars – Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall.

They point to how the broadcaster badly let down abuse survivors previously, including one who featured in a Panorama on the pulling of an expose of Savile by BBC2’s Newsnight and another at the centre of the latter programme’s implicit and mistaken identification of Lord McAlpine, former Conservative treasurer, as a paedophile.

Panorama plans to smear abuse survivors, criticise Exaro and other media over their reports on VIP paedophiles, and undermine MPs who campaigned on the issue.

Simon Danczuk, one of a cross-party group of seven MPs that called successfully for an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA), has been interviewed for the programme.

He co-authored a book that exposed Sir Cyril Smith, who on three occasions escaped prosecution for sexually abusing boys.

John Mann, another MP who has campaigned on the issue, tweeted his concern: “Panorama acting very oddly on child abuse. Twice in 3 months asked for interview and then vanished. Looking like a hatchet job on survivors.”

Exaro can reveal that Panorama’s repeatedly-delayed programme will allege that:

  • a CSA survivor claimed that the late Lord Brittan, former home secretary, sexually assaulted him only after he was told by a campaigner to identify the senior politician;
  • the Sunday Express ran a false story on its front page that a female ex-MP sexually abused an under-age boy;
  • campaigners exaggerated the evidence of the sexual abuse of boys in care by prominent men at the notorious Elm Guest House in south-west London.

The hour-long programme is also planning to repeat smears already published in newspapers about CSA survivors who have given accounts to police for criminal investigations.

Panorama insiders say that the main target of the programme is Chris Fay, a CSA survivor who was an advisor to a campaign group, the National Association for Young People in Care (NAYPIC).

He said: “The BBC’s real agenda is an attack on victims. I question whether the BBC will be declaring its own interest in this. It still has many questions to answer over decades of child sex abuse by BBC VIPs.”

Panorama insiders say that the programme will accuse Fay of using a system of coded signals during media interviews by a CSA survivor so that he would identify prominent people as perpetrators.

The CSA survivor is said to have told Fay that one abuser had a distinctive birthmark and that his first name was “Leon”. Panorama accuses Fay of strongly telling the witness that it must have been Brittan.

Panorama is understood to have persuaded one CSA survivor, an especially vulnerable witness in a live police investigation, to give an anonymous interview to accuse Fay of putting words in his mouth.

The programme interviewed Fay, but did not put this key allegation to him during filming.

Fay told Exaro: “I have never at any time put words in the mouth of any abuse survivor. The allegations about ‘secret signals’ are ridiculous and untrue.”

Panorama also plans to claim that Fay made up evidence about “snuff” movies in which children were killed during sexual abuse.

Fay denies making up evidence.

Exaro revealed in March that Panorama was seeking to “debunk” claims of the ‘Westminster paedophile network’. It has had to soften its tone following a clash with BBC News.

Panorama insiders say that the programme has to go ahead because it has spent so much on it.

Work on the programme began at least 18 months ago, and costs have mushroomed because of a large amount of legal advice. Panorama sources pointed out that an edition typically takes two or three months to make.

Despite all the effort, according to Panorama insiders, the production team realises that it does not have a story.

Exaro revealed this month how BBC bosses are trying to delay publication by Dame Janet Smith of her inquiry into Savile until after ministers agree the broadcaster’s charter renewal.

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

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