Crime & Investigation

BBC Newsnight Editor Steps Aside Over Jimmy Savile Claims

Mr_Rippon_has_said_he_dropped_the_Newsnight_report_for_editorial_reasons_843535528

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The Newsnight editor responsible for dropping a report into claims Sir Jimmy Savile sexually abused people “is stepping aside”, the BBC says.

It said the move involving Peter Rippon was happening “with immediate effect”.

In an editor’s blog, Mr Rippon explained the editorial reasons behind his decision to axe the report at the end of last year.

The BBC has now issued a correction, calling the blog “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects”.

Police have launched a criminal inquiry into Savile after saying that the former BBC presenter and DJ, who died in October 2011 and has been described by officers as a predatory sex offender, may have sexually abused many people, including young girls, over a 40-year period – sometimes on BBC premises.

BBC director general George Entwistle, who will appear before MPs on Tuesday to answer questions about the BBC and Savile, has also announced two inquiries regarding the sex abuse claims.

The first is looking into why the Newsnight investigation was shelved and is being led by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard. It is expected to report in December.

The second will be led by former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith and will examine the culture of the BBC during the years that Savile worked there. The results are expected in spring 2013.

‘Regrets errors’

In a statement on Monday, the BBC issued a correction to Mr Rippon’s blog.

It said: “The BBC regrets these errors and will work with the Pollard Review to assemble all relevant evidence to enable the review to determine the full facts.

“In addition, the BBC has announced that Peter Rippon is stepping aside with immediate effect from his post while the review by Nick Pollard… into the management of Newsnight’s investigation, is carried out.”

In a separate statement, a Downing Street spokesman said: “We are confident that the BBC and the Trust are taking these allegations seriously, but before making judgements, people should let these investigations run their course.”

The spokesman confirmed Number 10 was “not ruling anything out” in terms of a public inquiry, describing the sex abuse allegations against Savile as “horrifying”.

He declined to respond directly to questions about whether he had confidence in BBC director general George Entwistle.

A statement from the BBC Trust said it was “deeply concerning” that there had been “inaccuracies in the BBC’s own description of what happened in relation to the Newsnight investigation”.

“While it is right that the director general should seek to correct those inaccuracies, the public will want to know, as the Trust does, exactly what happened,” it said.

“The chairman has therefore today asked for and received confirmation that Nick Pollard’s independent inquiry will fully investigate how these inaccuracies came about and the handling of them once they became apparent.

“In line with its responsibilities to the public, the Trust wants the inquiry to comprehensively establish the facts surrounding the Newsnight issue as soon as possible. The inquiry will reach its conclusions independently of the BBC Trust and the executive board, and the Trust will publish the reports along with any actions it sees necessary as a result.”

It emerged earlier that Newsnight producer Meirion Jones had warned Mr Rippon the BBC risked reputational damage by dropping its report.

Speaking to a BBC Panorama programme to be shown on Monday night, Mr Jones said he had emailed Mr Rippon on 7 December 2011.

“I was sure the story would come out one way or another and… the BBC would be accused of a cover-up,” he said.

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