Coventry & Warwickshire

BBC's Russell Joslin killed himself after harassment complaints

Russell Joslin
Image caption Russell Joslin worked for BBC Coventry and Warwickshire

A BBC journalist killed himself after complaining of being sexually harassed by a female colleague, an inquest has heard.

Russell Joslin, 50, a radio reporter for BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, died in hospital last October.

Coroner Louise Hunt ruled the identity of the woman could not be revealed.

Mr Joslin died in hospital from asphyxiation three days after walking in front of a bus in October. A verdict of suicide was recorded on Friday.

Ms Hunt said there were many factors surrounding his death, including work dissatisfaction and his mental state, but it would be wrong to attribute blame to a single one.

'Black with rage'

However, she said it was clear he felt his complaints about alleged sexual harassment were not taken seriously.

The allegations made by Mr Joslin, which included unwelcome advances and a threatening voicemail, spanned the years 2005 to 2008, the inquest in Leamington Spa was told.

BBC 5 Live's Phil Mackie, at the hearing, said it appeared the allegations - which were officially made by Mr Joslin in March last year - were omitted from an official report sent to BBC managers.

But there was no evidence of a cover up, Lesley Granger, who carried out an investigation into the way the BBC handled Mr Joslin's grievances, told the hearing.

She said the catalyst for the events last October came during the Jimmy Savile affair, when Mr Joslin saw a television interview in which a former BBC employee alleged she had been the victim of a sexual assault at work.

Mr Joslin's father told the inquest his son had been "black with rage" after seeing it.

'Wasn't quite there'

In his evidence, Peter Joslin, the former chief constable of Warwickshire Police, said his son had been admitted to a psychiatric unit last March but seemed much better until a "rapid decline" last October.

Image caption Peter Joslin said his son was not happy with how his complaints were being dealt with

On 18 October, a friend contacted the family to say Mr Joslin was thinking of killing himself, his father said.

The next day he was called because Mr Joslin had thrown himself under a bus and was subsequently admitted to a psychiatric unit.

Peter Joslin told the hearing his son "wasn't quite there" and he "wasn't the Russell that we knew" but the family felt he was in the best place.

Mr Joslin was taken to Warwick Hospital and then to nearby St Michael's psychiatric hospital.

He was later readmitted as an emergency patient to Warwick Hospital, where he died on 22 October.

'Unfortunate event'

Peter Joslin said his son was not happy at the way the BBC handled his complaints.

Giving evidence, Ms Granger described an incident in which a manager mistakenly sent a text to Mr Joslin saying the case was "massively sensitive" as an "unfortunate event".

She was not allowed to name at the inquest any of the individual BBC managers involved.

At the time of Mr Joslin's death, Ms Granger said, the BBC was in "some disarray" especially with the sexual abuse revelations surrounding Savile, the former BBC TV presenter and Radio 1 DJ.

The inquest has also heard from Rebecca Sly, a mental health liaison nurse at Warwick Hospital, where Mr Joslin was taken after he was hit by the bus.

She said he told her he deliberately walked in front of the vehicle.

She suggested he be admitted to a psychiatric ward, the inquest heard.

Another nurse, Claire Lennox, said Mr Joslin was laughing and joking with staff an hour before his body was found.

The inquest was told he was subject to 15-minute observation checks in hospital but was not on suicide watch because he was deemed a low risk after expressing regret at what had happened.

A review of Mr Joslin's medical treatment proved nothing could have been done differently, the hearing was told.

'Hard lessons'

However, speaking after the inquest, Peter Joslin said the family would pursue some of the issues that arose from his treatment and the way the BBC dealt with his son's complaints.

Lucy Adams, director of HR at the BBC, told the inquest the corporation had carried out "a root and branch review" of procedures since his death.

David Holdsworth, controller of BBC English Regions, said after the hearing there had been hard lessons to learn, and the corporation would implement the changes.

Following the publication of the report in March, commissioned after Mr Joslin's death, the BBC introduced several measures, including setting up a confidential helpline for staff concerned about bullying or harassment and increased face-to-face counselling.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists said it would be examining whether proposed changes to the BBC's support services would lead to "still badly needed" improvements.

Following the hearing, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, which runs St Michael's Hospital, said it wanted to extend its "heartfelt sympathy" to Mr Joslin's family.

Associate medical director Dr Rob Holmes said: "We believe the coroner has heard clear evidence that our staff at St Michael's Hospital took all the steps they should have taken to prevent Russell from taking his own life."

He said despite that the trust had undertaken "a thorough investigation" of what had happened and "ensured that lessons learned have been implemented". But he admitted even those may not have prevented Mr Joslin's death.

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