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BBC inquiry begins as sex abuse scandal grows

Robin Millard

An inquiry into the BBC's culture and practices got under way with the corporation reeling from claims of child sex abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile.

An inquiry into the BBC's culture and practices got under way with the corporation reeling from claims of child sex abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile. (AP)

The probe begins a year to the day since the death of Savile, the eccentric presenter now considered one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, with some 300 alleged victims coming forward in recent weeks.

It also starts the day after 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter, a convicted paedophile, was questioned on suspicion of sexual offences, the first arrest in the widening police probe into the activities of Savile and others around him.

Janet Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, is heading an independent review into the British Broadcasting Corporation's culture and practices during the decades that Savile worked for the national institution.

Her inquiry will also examine whether the BBC's child protection and whistle-blowing policies are fit for purpose.

The remit also includes "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".

Smith led the inquiry into notorious serial killer Harold Shipman, which reported in 2005 and established that the family doctor who was convicted of 15 murders probably committed 250, if not more.

Gathering evidence
She was to start gathering evidence from people who allege they were sexually abused on BBC premises and from those who say they raised concerns about Savile.

Savile died aged 84 at his parkside penthouse in his native Leeds, northern England.

The claims against Savile have plunged the BBC into crisis and destroyed the reputation of a man who, with his garish tracksuits and ever-present cigar, was one of the most famous faces on British television from the 1960s through the 1980s.

He claimed to have been the first club disc jockey and hosted the BBC's flagship music programme Top of the Pops.

Savile was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and pope John Paul II for single-handedly raising tens of millions of pounds for charity.

Ex-colleagues have said there were rumours about the bachelor throughout his lifetime, and seven alleged victims made complaints to the police while he was alive – though none led to his arrest.

Abuse allegations
However, an ITV documentary earlier this month – which took its cue from a dropped investigation by the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight that never made it to air, the subject of another independent probe – saw a handful of women make abuse allegations.

Dozens have come forward since, triggering a crisis at the BBC described as a "tsunami of filth" by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, who chairs the corporation's BBC Trust governing body.

Police are dealing with around 300 alleged victims and following more than 400 lines of inquiry.

Glitter (68) was the first person arrested under the operation. He was escorted from his plush central London home and spent the day being questioned by officers. He was bailed to return in mid-December.

The king of the glam rock era with a string of stomping hits, Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, sold more than 20 million records and had a string of hits like I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am) and Rock and Roll (Parts 1 and 2).

He spent two months in jail in Britain after being caught with thousands of hardcore child pornography images on his computer in 1997.

Glitter left the country and was convicted in Vietnam in March 2006 of "obscene acts" with two girls aged 11 and 12. He served nearly three years in jail before being deported. – Sapa-AFP

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