Independent barrister to review BBC’s handling of Tim Westwood allegations

Independent barrister to review BBC’s handling of Tim Westwood allegations
New probe to look at whether concerns about his behaviour influenced broadcaster’s decision not to renew his contract beyond 201

A prominent barrister has been appointed to lead an independent investigation into the BBC’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against DJ Tim Westwood.

Gemma White QC has been appointed by the broadcaster to head up the six-month probe in order to “fully examine what was known about concerns regarding Tim Westwood’s conduct during his time with the BBC”.

Following accusations by several women of misconduct and predatory behaviour, the 64-year-old – who strongly denies any wrongdoing – stepped down from his show on Capital Xtra in April, nine years after leaving the BBC.

The BBC has said it is willing to include Mr Westwood’s other employers, MTV and Global, as part of the new independent probe, which was ordered immediately after the publication on Thursday of an internal audit.

Following its publication, the BBC board’s senior independent director, Sir Nicholas Serota – who those conducting the audit reported to – said he believed “there may have been occasions in the past when the BBC should have further explored issues that were being raised” about the DJ.

In July, the BBC said it received six complaints against Mr Westwood, including one that was referred to police, despite director-general Tim Davie previously saying he had seen “no evidence of complaints”.

Mr Davie subsequently launched the internal audit, and it emerged on Thursday that the Metropolitan Police is believed to be investigating sexual assault allegations against the DJ spanning four decades.

Sir Nicholas described the BBC audit’s publication on Thursday as “a first step”, adding: “New allegations and issues are emerging as time passes and more people are prepared to come forward. For this reason the work must continue.”

Sir Nicholas announced that he had requested on behalf of the BBC board that Ms White – a “hugely respected barrister who has relevant expertise and experience in this area” – conduct the fresh probe “in light of the issues identified by the internal review”.

Ms White, who is supported by the law firm Linklaters, led the House of Commons inquiry into the bullying and harassment by MPs of their parliamentary staff, which concluded in 2019.

“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,” Sir Nicholas said.

The initial six-month timeline given for the investigation is “not a hard deadline and if new issues emerge, then time will be made available to properly explore them”, he said, adding: “Our main objective must be to discover the facts.”

<p>Tim Westwood left his show at Capital Xtra in April </p>

Tim Westwood left his show at Capital Xtra in April

The new, broader review of Westwood’s conduct during his 20 years at the BBC will also examine whether concerns about his behaviour affected the broadcaster’s decision not to renew his contract beyond September 2013.

The new review will not make recommendations about what action should be taken against Mr Westwood, any other individuals “or within the BBC generally”.

The independent inquiry is the first the BBC has launched since last year’s probe by Lord Dyson into how journalist Martin Bashir obtained his 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

Mr Westwood, who is the son of former Anglican bishop of Peterborough, Bill Westwood, began his career on local radio before joining Capital Radio in London. He was later given his own show by BBC Radio 1.

He left Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra in 2013 after nearly 20 years and returned to Capital Xtra to host a regular show on Saturday nights, where he was referred to as “the Big Dawg”.

According to BBC News, which alongside The Guardian has uncovered the claims against Mr Westwood, some 18 women have now made allegations against the DJ, which in one case includes alleged sex with a 14-year-old.

The review published on Thursday confirmed that two allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr Westwood were received in 2012 and included in logs set up to record allegations the BBC was receiving in the wake of the uncovering of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The first referred to claims that in 2007 Westwood made “inappropriate sexual remarks” to a 15-year-old girl at a non-BBC event.

The second was a press enquiry by a newspaper seeking comment from the BBC in November 2012 about a “general rumour of sexual misconduct” against someone working at the corporation.

The initial report focused on cases from 2012 that were found in the BBC’s files and systems, plus the reports it had received since its joint investigation with The Guardian was published in April.

“In the time available, it has not yet been possible to do a comprehensive investigation into whether the BBC may hold further allegations about Tim Westwood for the entire period he worked for the BBC,” the review added.

It also emerged on Thursday that Scotland Yard is believed to be investigating four allegations of sexual offences against the DJ.

In a statement, which did not name Mr Westwood, the force said: “Detectives from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime continue to investigate four reports relating to allegations of non-recent sexual offences allegedly committed by a man.

“The offences are alleged to have occurred in London in 1982, 1985, 2010 and 2016. There have been no arrests, inquiries continue. We would appeal to anyone who has been the victim of sexual crime to contact police. Your complaint will be thoroughly investigated and you will be supported by specialist officers.”

A statement from a representative of Westwood in April said: “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.”

His representatives have been contacted for further comment.

Additional reporting by PA