When the Pollard Report into the BBC Jimmy Savile abuse affair was published in December 2012, BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten confidently told a press conference:
‘As far as we’re concerned the report is an excellent account of what happened. We’re totally in support of the recommendations, and that as far as I am concerned is that.’
But that has not been that. Readers will recall that Helen Boaden’s testimony, relating to a conversation that she had with Mark Thompson about the Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile, was omitted from the report. It should be noted that Mr Thompson has ‘slightly different recollections’ of this conversation than does Ms. Boaden, and that Nick Pollard questioned Mr Thompson about it at some length during his inquiry; but the omission has interested watchers of this case. There have been queries in the media and questions in the House; but, as Mr Steerpike wrote last week, there has been marked quiet from the BBC on the subject.
Until now. Lord Patten has said: ‘it would have been preferable for a reference to Helen Boaden’s legal letter to have been included.’ One wonders why it has taken so long for Lord Patten to reach the simple and obvious conclusion that Boaden’s letter should have been included in the report. Indeed, Nick Pollard himself has said: ‘It doesn’t particularly reflect well on me that I overlooked this in the report… It’s a slightly awkward position for me because if I’d thought about it immediately before publication and I’d picked up on the significance of it I think I’d have probably put it in the report.’
All of this prompts a question for the BBC Trust. If it would have been ‘preferable’ for the overlooked evidence to have been included in the report, does the Trust still regard the Pollard Report to be ‘an excellent account of what happened’? It may well be that the omitted evidence has no bearing on the report’s overall conclusions and recommendations; but I think that the BBC Trust ought to answer the question, for the sake of the factual record if nothing else. At the very least I would expect the Select Committee to investigate this matter.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.