The BBC could face a full public inquiry into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal if the corporation’s investigations fail to “get to the bottom” of the accusations, Britain's Culture Secretary Maria Miller has warned.
The national broadcaster has launched an inquiry into the culture and practices at the corporation in the era of the late TV and radio presenter’s alleged sexual abuse.
It is also investigating the decision-making process which saw a Newsnight investigation into the Jim’ll Fix it star’s activities shelved.
Speaking about the double probe, Mrs Miller told The Sunday Telegraph: “The real challenge for the BBC is to make sure that the outcome of these reviews really gets to the bottom of these accusations.
“If the investigations are considered not to suffice because of issues around transparency, process or other such things, then a public inquiry remains an option.”
Mrs Miller has already written to Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, to say it was vital that the inquiries are “able to follow the evidence wherever it takes them”.
She told the Telegraph it was “particularly” important that the corporation publishes all evidence to the investigations, which so far it has refused to do.
Her comments came after veteran presenter Jonathan Dimbleby said there has been a “disturbing relish” in the way critics have laid into the BBC over the Savile scandal.
The Radio 4 presenter said there has been a “witchhunt” against the corporation since allegations the celebrity abused hundreds of young girls and women – some on BBC premises – emerged.
Blaming the media and politicians for getting their priorities wrong, Mr Dimbleby said: “Organisations that have come under flak recently such as newspapers and MPs want to get their revenge. They think the BBC is too smug and holier-than-thou.
“But there is a disturbing relish in the way the critics have laid into the BBC, holding today’s office-holders to account for what happened 30 years ago.”
Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, is now believed to have been one of the UK’s most prolific abusers, with about 300 possible victims.
Scotland Yard is leading a national investigation into the television and radio star’s activities, with detectives following 400 lines of inquiry.
Comedian Freddie Starr and former pop star Gary Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, have both been questioned by officers investigating the abuse scandal.
A number of alleged victims claim they were abused by Savile while pupils at Duncroft Approved School in Surrey during the 1970s.
Former headteacher Margaret Jones yesterday admitted she was “hoodwinked” by the star, who she allowed to sleep overnight on school premises.
But she said she had no idea Savile was “a pervert” and that no-one ever reported any abuse to her.
Savile’s estate, reportedly worth £4.3 million, has been frozen in response to the mounting allegations.
NatWest Bank, which is acting as the Jim’ll Fix It presenter’s executor and trustee, said the distribution of his assets had been put on hold in anticipation of legal action from his alleged victims.