Dimbleby critical of BBC 'witchhunt'

Sat, Nov 3, 2012, 00:00

There has been a “disturbing relish” in the way critics have laid into the BBC over the Jimmy Savile sex scandal, according to veteran presenter Jonathan Dimbleby.

The broadcaster said there has been a “witchhunt” against the corporation since allegations that the late Jim’ll Fix it star abused hundreds of young girls and women - some on BBC premises - emerged.

In an interview with The Times, the Radio 4 presenter, who first started working at the BBC in the late 1960s, said: “I think it’s disgraceful and horribly out of proportion to hound everyone at the BBC in a way that is unwarranted and lacks perspective when the real focus should be on what Savile did wrong.

“Paedophilia is a huge national problem that no one thought about 50 years ago and is now something that concerns everyone, but this has become a witchhunt against the BBC.”

Blaming the media and politicians for getting their priorities wrong, Mr Dimbleby added: “Organisations that have come under flack recently such as newspapers and MPs want to get their revenge. They think the BBC is too smug and holier-than-thou.

“But there is a disturbing relish in the way the critics have laid into the BBC, holding today’s office-holders to account for what happened 30 years ago.”

Solicitor Liz Dux said Savile’s estate, the BBC and three hospitals - Stoke Mandeville, Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor - are facing possible legal action by alleged victims.

Ms Dux, who is representing more than 20 people who claim to have been sexually assaulted, said formal notice had been sent to “all interested parties” of an intention to pursue claims against them. Lawyers are also looking into the late presenter’s overseas assets, thought to be administered from tax haven the Channel Islands.

Savile’s estate, reportedly worth £4.3 million, has been frozen in response to the mounting allegations.

NatWest Bank, which is acting as the Jim’ll Fix It presenter’s executor and trustee, said the distribution of his assets had been put on hold in anticipation of legal action from his alleged victims.

Savile’s relatives said they do not want a penny of his estate and called for the cash to be donated to an organisation to tackle sex crimes.

A headteacher of a girl’s school where Savile was allegedly allowed to sleep overnight said former students who claimed they were abused there by the entertainer were “delinquents” who were “looking for money”.

Margaret Jones admitted she was “hoodwinked” by Savile, who she allowed to sleep overnight at Duncroft Approved School in the 1970s.

Allegations linked to three former residents of the home were made in 2007 but Surrey Police said they did not speak to ex-workers from the school unless there was evidence that they had witnessed or been told about sexual abuse.

Child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas told the Daily Telegraph this week that the failure to speak to headteacher Ms Jones as part of the investigation was a missed chance to catch Savile while he was alive.

But Miss Jones said she had no idea Savile was “a pervert” and that no-one ever reported any abuse to her.

She told the Daily Mail: “They had an opportunity to tell anybody. But it suited them - some of them, not all of them - to wait 30 years. They’re all looking for money... they come out of the woodwork for money. I do object to my school being targeted... wild allegations by well-known delinquents.”