The BBC finds itself amid controversy over the broadcaster’s long relationship with Jimmy Savile and its decision to axe a Newsnight report highlighting claims that Savile was a serial child abuser. The Newsnight report was due to be aired weeks before a planned tribute to Savile on the BBC over Christmas 2011.
A Panorama programme, due to be broadcast tonight, will say that Newsnight producer, Meirion Jones, warned his editor, Peter Rippon, that the BBC could be accused of a cover up if the programme regarding Savile’s alleged abuse did not proceed as scheduled.
The Guardian recently reported that “claims against Savile have intensified the focus on institutions that worked with him”.
Various organisations who were connected with Savile, including the BBC, could be sued for compensation if the individual abuse victim suing is able to show that Savile was their employee or that there was a sufficiently close connection between him and the organisation. Even if Savile was not an employee, organisations may still be liable if they knew or ought to have known what was going on and failed to prevent it.
The likelihood of legal action will put additional pressure on the BBC and other organisations to ascertain who knew what was going on and why these claims were not acted upon or investigated earlier.
The individuals that Savile chose to abuse were young and vulnerable. Those who were initially brave enough to report him were not believed. Therefore, it is not surprising that other individuals were unwilling to come forward whilst Savile was alive. Unfortunately, this is very common in abuse cases. The majority of our clients are unable to speak about the abuse until a long time after it has happened. Many feel ashamed or scared. Others fear that they will not be believed. Some clients are only able to disclose the abuse when a significant event happens in their life at a later date, for example the birth of their child.
Pete Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), believes that if anything beneficial is to come out of this, it’s allowing “victims and survivors of abuse to come forward and speak out”.