BBC staff failed to report disgraced presenter Stuart Hall indulging in “inappropriate sexual conduct” partly because he was seen as an “untouchable” celebrity, a report found.
Staff at BBC Manchester knew the former It’s A Knockout host was taking women into his dressing room for sex, although not that some of them were under age, a report by former High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs found.
The report said he had 21 female victims at the BBC, with the youngest aged 10, between 1967 and 1991, but no complaints were passed on to senior management.
Hall, now 86, was released in December after serving half of a five-year jail term for historical indecent assaults against girls aged between nine and 17.
In an interview in Thursday’s Sun, he hit out at his accusers, saying: “To go from being a national treasure to the bottom of the pond has been very difficult.
“The vindictive, malicious people who have impugned me will think again. I’m hoping for fairness from everybody.”
The report said people who were interviewed gave various reasons for a failure to report him, including it being nothing to do with them, fears they were too junior to interfere or might lose their job, or that it was up to management to take action.
Summarising Dame Linda’s report, Dame Janet Smith said: “There were also concerns that management would not deal with it because of Hall’s importance to the success of his shows and his celebrity status; he therefore became ‘untouchable’.”
The reports said Hall’s actions had to be seen in the context of the behaviour standards of the time, but added: “It is difficult not to conclude that, in view of the unusual opportunities for the abuse of young girls that some of the BBC’s work generated, it should have put in place measures designed to prevent such abuse.
“Whether such measures would have prevented some or all of the especially inappropriate conduct committed by Hall in connection with his work for the BBC is difficult to say. It is likely at the very least that they would have prevented those incidents with which the Hall investigation is primarily concerned, namely those which took place on the BBC’s premises in Manchester.”
The report said young female visitors to BBC Manchester were jokingly referred to as “Hall’s nieces” who had come for “elocution lessons”.
It also referred to Hall’s “laddish sexuality, characterised by risque banter and often unwanted tactility”.
The report criticised Ray Colley - regional television manager at BBC Manchester in the 1970s, and one of freelancer Hall’s bosses - saying that while there was no evidence he had known about Hall’s activities, he should have done.
Mr Colley, the report said, gave Hall a dressing down about his conduct after the former arrived at BBC Manchester in 1970, suggesting rumours about Hall’s sexual activity were circulating even then. However he failed to take any subsequent “positive steps” to check if Hall was behaving.
The report said: “Mr Colley underestimated Hall. Given that Mr Colley was aware that Hall was a womaniser, and he was aware of the real possibility that Hall had been having sex on the premises previously, I would have expected any prudent manager, even in the culture of those days, to follow up to ensure that Hall was not conducting himself inappropriately on the premises.”
In June 2013, Hall was jailed for 15 months after he admitted indecently assaulting 13 girls, before the sentence was doubled by the Court of the Appeal, which ruled it was “inadequate”.
Last May he received an additional 30 months in jail - to run consecutively - for two indecent assaults on another girl.