The BBC is hiring human rights lawyer Dinah Rose QC to examine its procedures on handling sexual harassment complaints.
Director General George Entwistle told the Culture, Media and Sport select committee that Rose would be working at the BBC to examine the broadcaster’s existing systems and “whether our culture is as it should be” on the subject of handling complaints.
He did not elaborate on how Rose, who has represented WIkileaks founder Julian Assange and former Guantanamo inmate Binyam Mohamed, would be hired or for how long.
He told the committee that there had been between eight and ten individuals who had had complaints of a serious sexual nature against them during the time Savile worked at the BBC.
He said that the BBC was currently “tracking” existing staff who have had complaints against them but that he was unable to disclose the number of current staff who were the subject of complaints.
In another move, Entwistle revealed that David Jordan the BBC’s head of editorial policy is examining a potential amendment to the BBC’s guidelines on handling material from BBC investigations that don’t make it to air, such as the Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile.
In his evidence to MPs Entwistle said that the decision not to proceed with the Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile was taken solely by the programme’s editor Peter Rippon and said that his failure to give an accurate version of events in his blog was “a matter of regret and embarrassment”.
He added that he believed that the Newsnight investigation into Savile “should have been allowed to continue” and that given the evidence he now has he was “surprised” that it was dropped.
UPDATE (1730, 23 October)
Working alongside the BBC’s own HR department, Dinah Rose will assist the BBC in reviewing its policies and processes relating to sexual harassment and will make any recommendations for improvements that may be required, the BBC has confirmed. She will report directly to Entwistle.
Entwistle said “I am very grateful that Dinah Rose QC has agreed to help us look at these issues. The allegations that have arisen in the last few weeks that date back decades have truly shocked me. If there are lessons we can learn then we must do so to ensure that the mistakes of the past should never be repeated.”