Janet Smith’s review: BBC probe into snapper’s activities was ‘manifestly inadequate’
BBC bosses carried out a “manifestly inadequate” investigation into claims that “pornographic” pictures were taken of girls in the audience for Top of the Pops.
Dame Janet Smith says in the draft report of her inquiry into the late Sir Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC’s biggest stars, that it was “likely” that the programme’s resident photographer took pictures “of a pornographic nature” backstage at recordings.
In addition, the retired judge’s inquiry report into Savile’s abuse at the BBC – leaked to Exaro – cites the report of a police investigation, which says that the photographer, Harry Goodwin, showed “blue films” at recordings of Top of the Pops (TOTP) to staff and “members of the popular music community”.
“I think it likely that, on occasions (probably not frequently) photographs of a pornographic nature were taken by Mr Goodwin” – Dame Janet Smith, review report
Goodwin, who died two years ago, was a renowned celebrity photographer and has a permanent display in the National Portrait Gallery. He was TOTP’s photographer since its launch in 1964 until 1973.
However, as Smith explains, Goodwin was caught out in a sting as part of an investigation into TOTP by the News of the World in 1971. She writes:
It appears that activities in Mr Goodwin’s dressing room became a matter of concern and complaint in 1969. In a confidential memorandum from Arthur Hughes, the head of the BBC Internal Investigation Team, to the Assistant Solicitor dated 26 March 1971, it was recorded that Mr Goodwin had first come to the attention of the Investigations Team in March 1969 when, after the audience had left the studio following a recording of Top of the Pops at Television Centre, two girls aged about 16 and 17 were found waiting to visit him in his dressing room to be photographed. When Mr Goodwin was confronted with this and was told that the girls should not be visiting his dressing room, he was recorded to have said that he “would do the same again next week when the show was at Lime Grove where he could do as he liked.”
The same memorandum records that, later that year, in May 1969, an anonymous letter had been passed to Mr Hughes. The letter was typed on BBC Lime Grove headed notepaper and asserted that: “Every Thursday evening, after the completion of the TOTP programme, Dressing Room 57 at these Studios is used by Mr Goodwin to take pornographic material from a variety of girls that arrive at the Studios, obviously by arrangement with Mr Goodwin, as it happens regularly.”
The anonymous letter continued by saying that: “Even the commissionaires on duty in the entrances to the Dressing Room passage have been paid by Mr Goodwin to see that he is not disturbed during the filming in the Dressing Room, this I have witnessed myself.”
… The contents of the anonymous letter were reported to the then Head of Light Entertainment (variety) Ronnie Priest, who observed only that Mr Goodwin was a nuisance…
… Following this, Mr Hughes and his assistant attempted an undercover visit to Lime Grove during a recording of Top of the Pops in the hope of catching Mr Goodwin red-handed. However this plan was thwarted as Mr Goodwin was tipped off and “so no misuse of the dressing room was observed.” Mr Hughes recorded that, although Mr Goodwin had been alerted, some of Mr Goodwin’s intelligence was flawed, as Mr Goodwin wrongly thought that the investigators were members of the CID (rather than internal BBC investigators).
I infer from Mr Hughes’s comprehensive memorandum of 26 March 1971… the incident was closed following the Lime Grove visit and… no further action was taken.
Hughes wrote the memo because the News of the World five days earlier had called for TOTP to sack Goodwin, Smith notes.
Undercover journalists from the newspaper had caught the photographer in a sting. “He boasts of having taken pornographic pictures of young girls delighted to be on the show,” it reported. “He has shown blue films behind locked dressing room doors before programmes.”
Smith gives her verdict on the BBC’s response to the News of the World’s story:
In my view, the BBC’s 1971 investigation into Mr Goodwin’s activities was manifestly inadequate. No attempt was made to tie up the new allegations, as published in the News of the World, with the 1969 investigation… The investigation consisted essentially of asking the person accused whether the allegation was true and, when its truth was denied, the denial was accepted.
The BBC later instructed an independent barrister, Sir Brian Neill, to investigate wide-ranging allegations in the News of the World against Top of the Pops, including its Goodwin claims. Smith was also unimpressed with that.
Mr Neill did not set out in his report any of the evidence he had heard relating to the allegations against Mr Goodwin. I think that is probably because the people he interviewed told him that, although they had heard rumours about the showing of blue films, they had little actual knowledge of the matter…
Mr Neill heard evidence from Mr [Stanley] Dorfman [a TOTP producer and BBC spokesman]. I took evidence from him as well. In evidence to me, he had nothing but praise for Mr Goodwin. He described him as “a very simple, straightforward, incredibly good photographer [who] lives a very, I think, monastic life.” … He did remember that there were rumours concerning Mr Goodwin showing pornographic films in his dressing room but he told me that he did not believe them…
It is a pity that Mr Neill was unable to hear the tape of Mr Goodwin’s interview with the undercover journalists, as he would have had some impression of Mr Goodwin’s personality from what he said and also from his use of language. Having had the advantage of reading the transcripts of those interviews, I myself would reject as wholly mistaken Mr Dorfman’s impression of Mr Goodwin as a simple straightforward man who led a monastic existence. I think, if he had read the transcripts, Mr Neill would have concluded, as I have done, that Mr Goodwin was very much more involved in sleazy activities than he was prepared to admit.
I have been able to spread the net a little wider and have taken evidence form a few witnesses who worked on Top of the Pops during Mr Goodwin’s era. I took evidence, by telephone, from Ronald Howard, who worked for some years as Mr Goodwin’s assistant. He (together with Mr Goodwin) had attended the ‘sting’ meeting with undercover journalists. I accept what he told me. He had not been interviewed by Mr Neill. In evidence to me, Mr Howard confirmed that Mr Goodwin had indeed entertained members of the studio team (as well as members of bands) to showings of titillating photographs or films and that Mr Goodwin had “got into trouble” with the BBC, after which the practice had ceased. As I understood his evidence, Mr Howard was saying that Mr Goodwin obtained and supplied the blue films although someone else actually operated the machine on which they were shown. Mr Howard was keen to impress upon me that, by modern day standards, the films or photographs would be considered tame.
Mr Howard did not accept, however, that Mr Goodwin took pornographic photographs of members of the studio audience; his recollection was that this aspect of the News of the World article was completely made up… I have read the transcript of Mr Goodwin saying that he had photographs of young girls from the audience and that some of them were “porny”.
I think it likely that, on occasions (probably not frequently) photographs of a pornographic nature were taken by Mr Goodwin, as he had admitted in the taped conversation, but I accept Mr Howard’s evidence that he had no knowledge of them. Such photographs were, I believe, almost certainly taken after the show was over and after Mr Howard had left the studio to go home. I heard the evidence of a witness who chose to remain anonymous (for good reason) and who told me that she had attended the show on a handful of occasions with a friend from school. On one such occasion, she was photographed by Mr Goodwin. Although (and I emphasise) this photograph was perfectly innocent, it serendipitously included an image of the girl’s watch, which clearly showed the time to be exactly 10pm, well after the show would have finished and the audience departed. This witness also told me that the photographs that Mr Goodwin had taken of her school friend were “more provocative”.
Talking to Exaro, Dorfman said that Goodwin “remained a good friend of mine until he died”, adding, “I was not naive, I was just unaware.”
Neill told Exaro that, at the BBC’s request, he had only produced an “interim report” on the basis of limited information available to him at the time.
Smith says that police investigated allegations in the News of the World about Top of the Pops. This mainly focussed on the “payola” scandal in which bribes were paid to DJs to play specific records on their programmes.
Smith says that the resulting police report made no reference to evidence that Goodwin took “pornographic pictures” of young members of TOTP audiences, but it found that he had shown “blue films” on BBC premises:
The report concludes that Mr Goodwin had indeed shown blue films on BBC premises at Lime Grove, mainly during the period 1967 to 1969. The audience had included BBC staff and members of the popular music community. Mr Goodwin himself admitted that blue films had been shown to staff on two occasions but he denied that the films belonged to him; he claimed that they belonged to “a casual person employed on the programme”. There was evidence from a BBC commissionaire that he had been instructed by a studio manager to get young girls out of Mr Goodwin’s dressing room.
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