The Dame Janet Smith Review – wider considerations than Savile, Hall and the BBC

With much news coverage yesterday the long awaited Dame Janet Smith report was published and it did not make easy reading for the BBC, the victims of Savile and Hall nor indeed anyone else. Its cost (stated to be £6-6.5m) understandably caught the headlines as did comments about the lack of ability for this Review to compel people to give evidence, unlike the statutory IICSA. Once the IICSA has digested the report it will no doubt factor it in to the research project it has already announced which looks at how the media reports abuse and how in the approach and terminology used that has impacted on public perceptions and attitudes to child protection matters. When further investigations are announced it seems inevitable that one will look at the media and inevitably that will include the BBC. Despite the thorough work undertaken by Dame Janet Smith in connection with Savile and Dame Linda Dobbs in connection with Hall, given the conclusions reached in yesterday’s report the IICSA will have to make consideration of abuse within media organisations and it will be able to compel witnesses to attend.

The report contains a chapter which focuses on “Changing Attitudes & Sexual Mores” and notes that many witnesses referred to attitudes towards sexual behaviour being different in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s to what they are now. Within the comments in that Chapter is an overview of the issue of attitudes towards consent, what the attitude was to the age of consent, particularly for girls, and the acceptance particularly within a show business environment of older men having sexual relationships with young girls. Indeed it is noted that different attitudes appear to have prevailed within show business and the music industry. The report notes that: “It appears to have become received wisdom over the years to believe that those girls [who would flock around pop singers often screaming at the tops of their voices ] (or at least some of them) were intent not merely on seeing their pop idols or getting an autograph, but in having sexual contact with them.” This does not seem so different to what is currently alleged in the trial of the ex-Sunderland football player Adam Johnson. The IICSA will inevitably look in its future investigations at the music industry and sport related organisations and that is likely to cover all such organisations irrespective of size, power or wealth.

Within this Chapter consideration is also made of the attitudes within the Government of the day and civil servants to giving Savile an honour. This surely must be something which the IICSA will also consider when it looks at Westminster, one of the investigations it has already announced.

There is much of wider interest in this Review than the extreme behaviour of Savile and Hall, including commentary on attitudes towards women at work within the BBC, the negative impact of a macho culture and the importance of women in the workplace. Reference is also made to the risks which can arise when staff bring children to their place of work and to lack of proper supervision of work experience students. Many organisations which may not on a day to day basis work with children are likely to be presented with these situations and they should ensure they have child protection policies in place. There are many lessons which can be learnt from this Review.


Author

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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner

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