Manchester

BBC management 'aware' of Stuart Hall's sex abuse on premises

Stuart Hall Image copyright Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Image caption Stuart Hall was jailed in 2013 after pleading guilty to a number of assaults

Members of BBC management in Manchester were aware of paedophile Stuart Hall's "inappropriate sexual conduct " in his dressing room, a report has found.

It said "rumours" circulated within the Piccadilly Gardens office and it was "likely" he "could have been prevented from committing criminal offences".

The ex-presenter, 86, was jailed in 2013 after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls - one as young as nine - between 1967 and 1985.

The BBC said it had "failed victims".

Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said the corporation had "turned a blind eye, where it should have shone a light. And it did not protect those who put their trust in it".

Victims of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall will feel let down by the Dame Janet Smith report and will see it as "an expensive whitewash", according to a lawyer representing them.

'No-one complained'

Dame Janet Smith's review, set up in 2012, examined how Jimmy Savile and Hall carried out campaigns of abuse over decades while at the BBC.

Hall's sexual behaviour at the BBC

The report found 21 females, the youngest aged 10, were assaulted by Hall at the BBC between 1967 and 1991.

Young female visitors to BBC Manchester were jokingly referred to as "Hall's nieces" who had come for "elocution lessons", it said.

It also referred to Hall's "laddish sexuality, characterised by risque banter and often unwanted tactility".

There was "no evidence" BBC staff were aware that the girls involved were under-age, and "no-one complained to management", it added.

Hall, formerly of Wilmslow, Cheshire, had previously worked for BBC Radio 5 live and presented the BBC's regional North West news programme.

Image caption Hall pictured in 1969 presenting the North West edition of BBC Look North in Manchester

The former regional North West TV manager, Ray Colley, "took Hall to task" about rumours of inappropriate sexual conduct in his dressing room in 1970, the report said.

Had Mr Colley then taken the "basic steps" to monitor Hall's behaviour "it is likely he could have been prevented from committing the criminal offences", the former Appeal Court judge's report said.

There was no evidence people had "direct personal knowledge" of his sexual conduct in his dressing room, it added.

In the report, Dame Janet said: "In my judgment it must have been apparent to [Mr Colley], in the light of Hall's response and obvious lack of protest about such a serious issue, that the rumours relating to the period before he arrived were founded on fact.

"Therefore, at that stage, Mr Colley must have been, at the least, aware (without direct personal knowledge) that Hall had, in the past, engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct in his dressing room."

The report said there were "cultural factors" at the BBC that stopped people reporting upwards, "particularly when they related to talent".

Savile and Hall made "sorry reading" for the BBC and the inquiry found "disturbing things", the report said.

Image caption Hall worked as a sports commentator for BBC Radio 5 live, and hosted the comedy game show It's a Knockout for more than a decade

BBC culture "made it difficult to complain or rock the boat" and an "atmosphere of fear" still existed in the BBC to this day, it said.

However, it said no organisation could be "completely confident" that it did not harbour a child abuser.

During the inquiry, Mr Colley was contacted and said he "made it clear that sex on the premises was unacceptable".

His response in the report said: "Nobody ever told me that Stuart Hall was having improper sex in his dressing room or any sex in his dressing room.

"Patently, it should not have happened. If it did happen and I'd been told about it, it would have been sorted. I was more than able to sort Stuart Hall. I did not fear him in any way. He was not essential to my operation."


The criminal case

Image copyright Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
  • Hall was arrested in December 2012 when he made a statement labelling the claims against him as "pernicious, callous, cruel and above all spurious"
  • He was imprisoned in 2013 after admitting indecently assaulting 13 girls - one as young as nine - between 1967 and 1985
  • His sentence was extended in 2014 when he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecently assaulting a teenage girl
  • Hall was cleared of of raping two girls but convicted of assault in May 2014
  • His original 15-month sentence was doubled by the Court of Appeal after the judge said it had been "unduly lenient" given the impact on his victims
  • He received an additional two years and six months over the later charges

As part of Dame Janet Smith's review, Dame Linda Dobbs received evidence from people against whom Stuart Hall admitted inappropriate sexual conduct in connection with his work for the BBC, and provided her findings to the inquiry.

BBC staff failed to report the disgraced presenter indulging in "inappropriate sexual conduct" partly because he was seen as an "untouchable" celebrity, the report found.

Liz Dux, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, which represents 168 victims, said: "All the Savile and Hall victims have ever wanted from this report is truth and accountability.

"Despite millions having been spent on the inquiry, my clients will feel let down that the truth has still not been unearthed and many will feel it is nothing more than an expensive whitewash."

Ms Dux added: "It is unfortunate that Dame Janet had no power to compel senior managers to give evidence, giving the impression that the whole picture of who knew what has not been revealed."

Another solicitor representing victims said the report was "positive" in terms of truth, but fell "a long way short of what we wanted" in terms of "accountability".


The Hall investigation

Image caption Hall worked at the BBC's Oxford Road premises from 1981
  • It was set up by the BBC on 4 June 2013
  • Hall had joined the BBC in 1959 and became a household name in the UK
  • The investigation primarily focussed on two BBC premises in Piccadilly Gardens between 1959 and 1981 and Oxford Road from 1981
  • Contact was with 147 relevant individuals including BBC staff and those who gave evidence of inappropriate sexual conduct
  • Most of the witnesses who worked with Hall on Look North/Look North West in the 1970s and 1980s thought that he was a very good presenter and "phenomenally popular"
  • Hall worked as a television news presenter on the daily regional news programme called Look North between 1965 and 1990
  • Former BBC employees described the regional television newsroom in Piccadilly as a busy and noisy open-plan office where there could be 20 or more people at any one time

Source: The Dame Janet Smith Review


More on this story