The Smith report is extensive running to well over 700 pages. Its primary conclusion was that although many BBC staff claimed to have heard rumours about Jimmy Savile the senior management of the BBC were never presented with any evidence of wrongdoing. The reason for reaching this conclusion in the report is that there was no record of any junior or middle management staff ever communicating their concerns about Savile to senior management. However, as will be explained in some detail below, the real reason why senior management heard nothing is because there was nothing to hear that was worth communicating. The allegations against Savile appear to fall into three categories, hearsay and rumour, the relatively harmless and trivial, and the fantastical.
The Dame doesn’t take too long before she tells us where she is coming from when she declares ‘in early October 2012, the country was deeply shocked about revelations that Savile, the well-known and well-loved television personality and charity fundraiser had in fact been a prolific sex offender.’ She repeats this again later ‘in the weeks following the disclosures about Savile’s sexual misconduct in October 2012’. This viewpoint can only have been reached by swallowing wholesale the deceptions in the Exposure programme.
Whilst this casual acceptance would be understandable at the start of the investigation, it becomes untenable by the time the report was published, given the amount of contradictory evidence that had been unearthed and placed in the public domain by the investigative bloggers. So her default position throughout the investigation is based on the falsehood that Savile must have been a sexual predator because that is what the Exposure programme supposedly uncovered beyond reasonable doubt. The Dame need not be censured too much about this, she only fell into the same trap that just about everybody else did, namely accepting the Exposure deceits without question or investigation. So all her deliberations must be viewed critically through the prism of her overt confirmation bias that Savile was a ‘prolific sex offender’, a viewpoint which must seriously have influenced the objectivity of her conclusions. In short, she has assumed his guilt and then set about building a case to justify it.
Dame Janet declared that ‘I have applied the civil standard of proof. That is to say that I have accepted evidence if I think that, on the balance of probabilities, it is true and accurate.’ In fact it soon becomes apparent that she has deviated quite considerably from this already fairly low standard of proof. What she has instead done is invariably accept that the accusers’ claims are true, unless there is fairly clear proof that they are lying. She has approached her investigation with the ingrained belief that Savile was a sexual predator and that his ‘victims’ should be believed. As we have seen in other well publicised cases this seems to be standard practice among prosecuting authorities these days.
We first need to examine the allegations relating to the Exposure programme that involve the BBC. To her credit Dame Janet firmly dismisses the testimony of Wilfred De’ath who repeated to her the tale he told in the TV programme. The Dame however got hold of a bundle of BBC documents which cast doubt on De’ath’s claims. She re-interviewed him and concluded that his account ‘contained so many inaccuracies’ that no reliance can be placed upon it.
The testimonies of Val and Angie formed a crucial part of the Exposure programme’s agenda of demonising Savile, and Dame Janet has related their claims in some depth. They are described as two of a group of teenage girls who formed what she terms the ‘London Team’. The accounts of Val and Angie are substantially the same as that given on the Exposure programme, although much additional detail has been provided. Their close relationship with Savile lasted for a period of at least five years before it ended, although they remained in contact with Savile for some time afterwards.
What the Dame failed to grasp is that Val and Angie are the same pair as the two women who wrote to Louis Theroux, revealed in a later part of the report. In their letter to Theroux they corrected the impression he gave in his TV programme that Savile did not have regular girlfriends. They also confirmed that neither of them experienced any abuse from Savile, making it clear that their relationships with him had been consensual, and that they had stayed on friendly terms with him for some time afterwards. So the only conclusion that can be reached is that, in fundamentally changing their stories to one of abusive behaviour, both Val and Angie have provided false testimony to the Exposure programme and to Dame Janet’s investigation.
In the Exposure programme Fiona, a former Duncroft approved school pupil, claimed that Savile assaulted her in a dressing room at BBC Television Centre after the recording of the Clunk-Click TV programme. In Dame Janet’s report the witness C30, a former Duncroft pupil, makes similar claims against Savile that were made by Fiona in Exposure, so it appears likely that they are both the same individual. Intriguingly the Dame concluded that ‘there are a number of elements of her evidence (C30) which are open to question and I do not feel able to make a decision about her claim of abuse, beyond saying that it might have happened and it might not’. Evidence has come to light that Fiona arrived at Duncroft only after the Clunk-Click series ended, and thus her testimony on Exposure (and to the Dame if she is C30) must be false.
In the Exposure programme another Duncroft pupil Charlotte claimed that Savile assaulted her in his caravan during the recording of a radio show, which could only have been Savile’s Travels. However, there is no evidence in the BBC records of such a programme being made from Duncroft, nor is there evidence in the Duncroft records that Charlotte was placed in isolation after she complained to teachers about this supposed incident. As there is no reference in the Smith report to this allegation it must be concluded that it was another attempt by the Exposure producers to defame the memory of Savile. To summarise, five of the six most damaging claims against Savile in the Exposure programme involved him working at or for the BBC. As can be seen from the above analysis, all of them are false.
To tie up the Duncroft saga, the Smith report does serve a useful purpose as it reveals how Savile came to visit Duncroft School in the first place. Witness A22 was a former resident at Duncroft who introduced Savile to the school after she met him at a social event. In the words of the report ‘her evidence is that he always behaved impeccably and her account contradicts much of what the other Duncroft witnesses say about Savile. A22 was clearly very close to Savile and thought very highly of him. She had a relationship with him after she left Duncroft. I have no reason to doubt her evidence that, while she was at Duncroft, Savile behaved impeccably in her presence’. Full details about A22’s relationship with Savile can be found on the Anna Raccoon website.
Having dealt with the Exposure stories it is time to examine some of the more fantastical claims made in the Smith report. Kevin Cook, as a nine year old, was one of a party of scouts who attended Jim’ll Fix It in January 1977 who shared a badge given to the whole troupe. Cook claimed that Savile took him aside and asked whether he would like a badge of his own, to which he answered yes. He then claims that Savile told him that he would have to ‘earn’ his badge and took him to a dressing room where he carried out sexual acts on Cook. This activity was interrupted by another man entering the dressing room.
However, Cook has come up with two separate stories about this second unidentified man. In the first the man immediately leaves, in the second he also starts to participate in the abuse against Cook, that also involves some violence. The Dame declared that this ‘change in Mr Cook’s account made it difficult for me to make up my mind whether his account was true’. She re-interviews him and accepts his explanation that ‘he had found talking about the second stage of the abuse even more embarrassing than the first’. She then concludes that she is ‘quite satisfied that his account was true and that both men had abused him’
However Moor Larkin has uncovered this revealing comment on an ITV discussion board ‘my husband was also one of the scouts that attended that day with this chap, he was chaperoned everywhere with an adult and had no problems at all.’ In a later part of the report Dame Janet commends the strict chaperoning regime on Jim’ll Fix It. This required that a child was always accompanied by a parent, chaperone or member of staff. Dame Janet stated ‘I am satisfied that that rule was strictly followed’. Moreover, according to BBC staff, Savile’s dressing room was usually so full of people that he would never be alone with a child, and his door was almost always open. It is difficult to believe that this young scout would not have been missed by the rest of the group and the leader, that he would have remained silent on the matter to his scout friends afterwards, especially after he got his individual badge, and that he would not have raised the matter at some point with his parents, but instead kept quiet about it for over 35 years.
One of the more bizarre incidents of alleged abuse by Savile took place whilst he was dressed in a Womble suit. C9 was a ten year old boy when he was taken by his grandfather to Top of the Pops. C46 was a twelve year old girl with her aunt at the same recording in late 1973. None of them had a ticket, they were waiting in the queue hoping to get in. Savile suddenly appeared at the entrance and agreed to take in the two children leaving the adults outside. Savile appeared throughout the show in a Womble suit. After the show was over they were both brought together to Savile’s dressing room. Savile took off his Womble outfit and proceeded to carry out a sex act on the boy, which was painful and caused some bleeding. He then carried out another sex act with the girl. Savile told them not to tell anyone as it was their secret, and he then left the room. They were then escorted to the exit by a member of staff where they rejoined the two waiting adults. Neither the boy nor the girl ever told anybody about this incident.
Dame Janet acknowledged that there were some inconsistencies and improbabilities in their accounts. These relate to the nature of the attacks and the state of undress, that children this young would unlikely to be allowed in the audience, one of the bands had pre-recorded their performance and were not at this show and inaccurate descriptions of how the acts were presented. Both C9 and C46 were represented by the same firm of solicitors. Despite all this the Dame is convinced that both are telling the truth. Some further facts have come to light. Mike Batt created The Wombles and the suits were the responsibility of his mother. According to Mike Batt because of their expensive cost, she never let them out of her sight. Moreover, the Womble outfits cannot be opened from the front, so Savile may have needed some assistance in the removal.
Another questionable account comes from C42, a 15 year old girl living in Manchester. She attended a recording of Top of the Pops in June 1970, travelling to London by train with a friend. They were both met at the studio by the programme’s photographer Harry Goodwin. At the end of the recordings Mr Goodwin introduced them to Jimmy Savile, who invited C42 to his dressing room for some signed photographs, leaving her friend with Mr Goodwin. Savile then carried out various sexual acts with her in the dressing room, before she managed to escape and rejoin her friend in the cafeteria. Mr Goodwin invited them out for a meal but C42 said she was unhappy and wanted to return to Euston station to catch a train for home. She never mentioned the incident to anyone until the Savile scandal broke in 2012.
During this period Top of the Pops was recorded at BBC TV Centre on Wednesdays between 7.30-10 pm for transmission the following day. So it would not have been possible for C42 to escape from her ordeal in Savile’s dressing room earlier than about 10.30 pm but maybe as late as 11 pm. Thus it was far too late for her to contemplate both having a meal and returning to Euston station to travel home to Manchester as the last train would have long since left by then. It is also difficult to believe that two 15 year old would be allowed to travel from Manchester to London during term time, and be able to make an unfamiliar and complicated journey across London.
Leisha Brookes was about nine years old in 1976 when she was first taken to BBC TV Centre by her stepfather’s friend Douglas Sillitoe, who worked for the BBC as a scene painter. He took her to the television centre about once a fortnight over a two year period, and she had access to many parts of the building, where she often saw or met celebrities. She claims that she was abused by about 30 of Sillitoe’s work colleagues at the BBC. One of these men was Savile, who she recognised from Jim’ll Fix It. She claimed he ‘promised to show her his big chair although he never did’. Leisha claims that when she was 19 she made a long statement to Merseyside police about the sexual abuse she had suffered including that from Savile. However, she claims that the police did not take any action on the ground that there was not enough evidence. Dame Janet concludes that she may have been abused by Silitoe’s colleagues as part of a paedophile ring, but accepts her claim that she was definitely abused by Savile.
Because the alleged offences took place in London, Merseyside police would have sent her witness statement to the Metropolitan police. However, enquiries of the Metropolitan police have proved fruitless as no trace of the complaint or any statement was found. As an adult Leisha Brookes has been repeatedly prosecuted for the non payment of her TV licence. Previous to 2012 her justification for non payment was for ‘personal reasons’. However in 2013 she refused to pay as a protest against her abuse ‘by Jimmy Savile and 35 other men at the BBC's headquarters’ that ‘wrecked her life, leading to mental health problems and suicide attempts’ It is difficult to believe that a paedophile ring of about 30 men would have operated at the TV centre without it coming to light. It is also unlikely that a major celebrity such Jimmy Savile would have been part of a ring comprising ordinary workmen. It must be concluded that her allegations appear to be extremely fanciful.
C38 was a 15 year old youth from Newcastle-upon-Tyne when he travelled by car with his elder brother and a friend to Top Of The Pops in the winter of 1964/65. His elder brother and friend were let in by the doorman but C38 was refused entry because he was too young. Because he wanted to keep in the warmth he decided to stay in the foyer until his companions returned after the end of the recording. During his wait C38 went into the gent’s toilet where he was soon joined by Savile and a companion. Without speaking to him Savile then proceeded to carry out various sex acts which C38 found painful. In shock he ran out of the building and down the road where he waited outside until the recording was over. He did not speak to his brother about this incident.
Images of the tickets to Top of the Pops from the 1964/65 period are still in the public domain, and clearly state that the minimum age for entry was 14. So C38 should have had no problems gaining entrance to the recording on grounds of age. The minimum age for entry was raised to 16 at a later date. Moreover, a car journey between Newcastle and Manchester in winter over the Pennines would have been a rather hazardous adventure for three youths in the largely pre-motorway era, particularly the night time return journey. In must be concluded that this is another very questionable account.
C39 was a 16 year old girl from Liverpool who attended Top of the Pops with a group of friends in 1964. After the recording she became separated from her friends, and in looking for them came across Savile. She told him that she was lost and that she and her companions were good friends with The Hollies pop group. Savile suggested that the group would probably be at a local nightspot and offered to take her there in his car. However, at the door C39 was refused entry because of her age. Savile went in alone but on his return claimed that he could not find The Hollies or her friends. After trying several more night clubs, without success in tracking down her friends, C39 agreed to spend the night at Savile’s flat, as by then it was too late to catch the train home to Liverpool. She described his flat as being part of a large Victorian property. During the night Savile entered her room and proceeded to rape her. She left in the morning and told her friend what had happened. Her friend informed her that The Hollies had in fact been at the first night club with their companions, but warned C39 that if they mentioned what had happened they would get no more tickets to Top of the Pops, so she told nobody else.
There are some problems with this account. The Dickinson Road studios, where Top of the Pops was recorded, are located in a converted church and due to the small size it would be very difficult for C39 to become completely detached from her companions, particularly as they would also be looking for her after they became separated. It is difficult to believe that she would have been refused entry to the night club when accompanied by a national celebrity such as Savile, particularly as her friends of a similar age had already been let in. In a time before ID requirements she would almost certainly have been waved through, even if there were some doubts about her age. One further point casting doubt on her claims is that, according to Moor Larkin, from 1963 Savile’s flat in Salford was part of a modern block, not a large Victorian house. Given all this, C39 is another case in which the wool appears to have been pulled over Dame Janet’s eyes.
Quite a few of the assaults recorded in the report would come under the heading of unsolicited touching. Whilst this behaviour can clearly be annoying to some women, the frequency which it seems to have occurred before the rise of feminism suggests that it was not as unacceptable to all women as it is considered now. Unlike the drab and scruffy attire worn by many women today, at that time most of them dressed in a feminine way that appealed to men, and many were flattered and reassured when they received physical evidence that they were attractive. However, this is not behaviour which can be condoned as it is clearly invasive and disrespectful to women.
One thing in common about all these alleged assaults is that the person now making the accusation either told nobody about it at the time, or if they did, they never took it further by using the BBC’s complaints procedure or informing the police. The usual reasons given for this are that either they thought they would not be believed or that they did not want to make a fuss or cause trouble. However, the law on sexual assaults is there for anyone who wants its protection and always has been. Common sense dictates that if an assault is not reported it will not be investigated. Contrary to what is often claimed today, the police have always treated sexual assault cases seriously, but to discover the truth they require evidence and full information as close as possible to the time when the assault took place. If genuine victims of assault say nothing about it at the time they have only themselves to blame if perpetrators get away with it, and so it is no use whingeing about the unfairness of it all decades later.
It must be concluded that Dame Janet’s report is almost worthless in discovering the truth about Jimmy Savile’s sexual escapades. She has made only the most cursory investigation into the allegations, treating the interviews as almost a therapy session, rather than seriously probing the claimants to tease out inconsistencies and improbabilities in their accounts. Her starting point has been that Savile was already a proven ‘prolific sexual predator’, and she has bent over backwards to accept the claims presented to her, no matter how fanciful or fantastical they might appear, or contrary to common sense. Part 2 of this blogpost will take a look at the culture and ethos of the BBC and wider society during the pre-feminist period which seems to have provoked Dame Janet’s ire.