Savile stink returns: Pollard report omitted crucial evidence

Lord Patten under pressure: tape recording about as welcome as dog poo, says Jeremy Paxman

Column LAST UPDATED AT 12:31 ON Thu 12 Dec 2013

THE ROW over the Jimmy Savile scandal has been reopened after a Tory MP defied BBC chairman Lord Patten and released a tape recording suggesting crucial evidence was omitted from the Pollard inquiry.

This was the £3 million inquiry carried out at the BBC's behest by Nick Pollard, a former head of Sky News, into allegations of a cover-up at the corporation over a mysteriously shelved Newsnight investigation into Savile's sexual abuse of schoolgirls.

Pollard found no evidence of such a cover-up in his report published last December. But in a later conversation with a journalist, Miles Goslett, which Goslett recorded, and which was published on the Guido Fawkes blog yesterday, Pollard admitted to having left a crucial piece of evidence out of his report.

Commenting on Newsnight last night, presenter Jeremy Paxman said the BBC welcomed the release of the tape like a man who has discovered he's "stepped in dog poo on the way to being made a member of the Order of Merit at Buckingham Palace".

So, why has the poo hit the proverbial fan yet again in this long-running saga?

As we have been told ad infinitum, Mark Thompson, who was Director General of the BBC from 2004 to 2012, told the Pollard inquiry - which was conducted behind closed doors - that he had never been informed about the nature of the allegations against Savile being investigated by Newsnight. Which was how the BBC was able - on the one hand - to plan and broadcast a eulogy to the recently deceased DJ to be broadcast at Christmas 2011 while - on the other  hand - Newsnight was busy investigating allegations of his sexual abuse of schoolgirls.

Thompson insisted he only found out about the Savile sex allegations after he left the BBC in September 2012 to become chief executive of the New York Times.

However, we now learn from the Goslett-Pollard tape, a transcript of which is carried by the Daily Telegraph, that five days before Pollard published his report, a lawyer for Helen Boaden, then head of BBC News, wrote to Pollard saying that Boaden had told Thompson in December 2011, before the Savile euology went out, about the nature of the Newsnight investigation.

But Pollard made no mention of the Boaden intervention in his report, writing instead that he had “no reason to doubt what Mr Thompson told us".

In the Goslett tape, Pollard admits that he had made a "mistake" by failing to refer to Boaden's evidence in his final report.

He told Goslett: "If I'd thought about it immediately before publication and I'd picked up on the significance of it I think I'd probably have put it in the report. You could say it doesn't particularly reflect well on me that I overlooked this in the report."

The release of the tape recording raises fresh questions about Pollard's findings, which some critics regarded as a whitewash. It also piles pressure on Lord Patten to - as The Guardian puts it - "get to the bottom" of the allegations that the Pollard report was incomplete.

In a letter to Rob Wilson , a Tory MP and long-time BBC critic who had got hold of the Goslett tape and was threatening to release it, Patten had urged him not to make the tape recording public on the grounds that it could be "potentially defamatory".

Wilson hit back at Patten, accusing him of "Soviet era" behaviour with his “chilling" threat. "This episode paints a worrying picture of the culture at the BBC," said Wilson. "The corporation ignored the evidence and I received a letter from Lord Patten warning me of the legal consequences.

"It appears that the BBC's instinct is still to cover up potentially embarrassing information rather than facing up to the truth about itself."

On Newsnight last night, Steve Hewlett, the media commentator, said the fresh row coincided with an annual review of BBC accountability and transparency. That was either bad luck, or it showed the leopard had not changed its spots, said Hewlett.

Paxman commented: “It doesn't show transparency - that's for sure."

The question now is whether the Commons culture and media committee will be inclined to reopen its own inquiry into the BBC. · 

Disqus - noscript

Wrong.

I'm not surprised at the evidence that BBC culture is to cover things up..bullying and harassment is regularly covered up against the very specific zero tolerance policy the BBC brag about...just like the ex BBC man Pollard's natural instinct to be deaf and blind to evidence in front of him ( maybe he has a new BBC job lined up when this blows over...which will hopefully be never) the BBC management instinct is implausible deniability. Just say no and threaten everyone who wants to tell truth..BBC standard management practice.

This makes me wonder whether I will EVER get a response from the Met, re my pertinent questions relative to the close relationship between Saville and Prince Charles. My letter of May 13th. although signed for has been ignored. Presumably I am just a "thingy" in their eyes!! and unworthy of respect?

The bbc increasingly appears to be a law unto itself with no effective oversight possible of the 4 billion a year monstrosity. This dog needs to be brought to heel and if bbc big bugs end up in the dock for perjury ... so be it!

...given enough will and a hard-enough push, this left wing edifice, which is rotten from the inside, will topple.

Then we will see this revolting bunch of self-opinionated, smug Metropolitan luvvies dash for cover, like cockroaches - caught with their pants down when the spotlight is turned on them.