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BBC launches independent review into abuse allegations against Tim Westwood

By | Published on Friday 5 August 2022

Tim Westwood

The BBC has announced an independent review into the allegations of abuse made over the years against former Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood and, crucially, what bosses at the Corporation knew of those allegations, and how they handled any formal complaints, while he was still working there.

The decision to appoint a third party to look into this matter follows an internal investigation. That internal investigation was launched in response to reports published by BBC News and The Guardian earlier this year – and a BBC Three documentary – in which a number of women accused Westwood of sexual misconduct.

Some of those women said that, after they agreed to meet with the DJ to discuss their careers in music, he had pressured them into sex. Others claimed that he had groped them as they posed for photographs at events. Many of those alleged incidents occurred between 1994 to 2013, when Westwood worked for the BBC.

BBC management initially said that they were not aware of any formal complaints having been made against Westwood that pre-dated this year’s documentary.

However, they subsequently admitted that they had found some old complaints, adding that more details would follow once the internal investigation was completed. A document summarising the findings of said investigation was published yesterday.

It confirmed that there were two contacts made with the BBC by external parties in 2012 regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against Westwood, both of which were included in the logs that had been set up by the broadcaster to record such allegations in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.

One complaint claimed that Westwood had made inappropriate sexual remarks to a fifteen year old girl at a non-BBC event a few years earlier. The second was a query from a newspaper seeking comment on general rumours against a BBC employee which seemed to be referring to Westwood.

In addition to that, there were two internal complaints from around the same time. The first complaint was initially made in 2011 and related to Westwood’s general conduct, both behind the scenes and on air. The second, in 2012, accused Westwood of creating a toxic environment for those working on his shows. A member of BBC staff recalls raising these with the DJ at the time, who denied all the allegations made against him.

In addition to those old complaints, yesterday’s document also confirmed that the BBC has been contacted by three external parties since the airing of the BBC Three documentary earlier this year, each making allegations of sexual misconduct, albeit two dating back to the 1980s before Westwood was hired by the broadcaster.

In addition to that, one BBC staff member has also newly raised an old allegation of sexual assault against Westwood relating to an incident that occurred at a BBC-linked event in the mid-2000s.

That staff member said that the victim of the assault did not want to report the incident to the police at the time, but that it was reported internally at the BBC. However, they couldn’t remember the exact year when the incident occurred, or who it was specifically reported to.

Following the publication of the findings of the internal investigation, Nick Serota, a senior independent director on the BBC board, said in a statement: “I am grateful to the BBC’s investigations team for the work they have done. It is an important piece of work, but I see it as a first step. New allegations and issues are emerging as time passes and more people are prepared to come forward. For this reason the work must continue”.

“In light of the issues identified by the internal review, I have asked, on behalf of the BBC board, that a broader review is now conducted and a full report is produced”, he then confirmed. “It is vital that this work is able to command the full confidence of those who have, or may wish, to come forward, as well as the wider public, and it is for that reason the BBC board believes there should be independent oversight”.

To that end, he added, “I have therefore asked Gemma White QC to lead this work. She is a hugely respected barrister who has relevant expertise and experience in this area. I have asked that the next stage of this work be completed within the next six months. However, I want to be clear this is not a hard deadline and if new issues emerge, then time will be made available to properly explore them. Our main objective must be to discover the facts”.

He continued: “In light of the BBC’s internal review, I believe that there may have been occasions in the past when the BBC should have further explored issues that were being raised. It now appears there are allegations against Tim Westwood dating to before, during and after his employment with the BBC and also elsewhere. The BBC is willing to work with any other employers in order to fully establish what happened”.

Serota then noted that internal systems at the BBC for dealing with complaints like those made against Westwood in 2011 and 2012 have been considerably overhauled over the last decade, in particular in the wake of the Savile scandal, meaning the Corporation today is “a significantly safer place to work”.

That said, he went on, “we should also use this as an opportunity to ensure the BBC is following the very best practice – and indeed setting the benchmark across the media industry. I have therefore asked the BBC executive to assess whether any current processes and procedures require updating or improving. These will remain under consideration both during the course of the new review and following receipt of the full report”.

Serota then concluded: “Finally, we owe it to those who have spoken out and raised issues to learn more about what took place and to give others the opportunity to tell us about their experiences. I would urge anyone with further information to respond to the call for evidence. This is important, of course, for them personally, but also to ensure that the BBC and other organisations are best placed to act in the future”.

Westwood has previously denied all the claims made against him, with a representative earlier this year stating: “Tim Westwood strongly denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour. In a career that has spanned 40 years, there have never been any complaints made against him officially or unofficially. Tim Westwood strongly rejects all allegations of wrongdoing”. He is yet to comment on the findings of the BBC’s investigation or the discovery of the old complaints.