BBC apologises to family after sexual harassment 'suicide'

Corporation will set up a confidential helpline for workers worried about harassment

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The Independent Online

The BBC has apologised “unreservedly” to the family of one of its journalists, who is believed to have taken his own life after his complaints of sexual harassment were ignored.

The Corporation admitted that it failed to help Russell Joslin and its treatment of him was “just not good enough”.

The 50-year-old, who was suffering from work-related stress,  apparently suffocated himself in a  psychiatric hospital in Warwick last October. Three days earlier he had walked in front of a bus in Kenilworth, receiving minor injuries. Mr Joslin’s family said the BBC “could have and should have done more” to help him.

“It is possible Russell might still be alive if the BBC system had proactively handled his complaints with more competence, openness and humanity,” said his brother-in-law, Dan Barnard.

Yesterday, the BBC released an internal report into its handling of Mr Joslin’s allegations of sexual harassment by a female colleague and said it had set up an anti-bullying helpline.

The document, written by a former BBC human resources executive, Lesley Granger, was published on the eve of today’s strike by BBC staff over bullying, harassment, excessive workloads and compulsory redundancies. The broadcaster is cutting 2,000 jobs as part of its “Delivering Quality First” plan. The 12-hour walkout by members of the National Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) is expected to disrupt TV and radio schedules. Ms Granger’s report into Mr Joslin’s death comes as the BBC conducts a major probe, led by barrister Dinah Rose, into bullying and sexual harassment. The inquiry, ordered after the Jimmy Savile scandal, has already received multiple allegations against staff. One senior executive is the subject of more than 20 bullying claims, being treated as a special category by the Rose review.

Mr Joslin, a reporter at BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, complained on six occasions that he was being victimised and sexually harassed by a senior colleague. Last year, his father Peter Joslin, former chief constable of Warwickshire Police, urged  the BBC to open an inquiry into his son’s death, complaining that there had been “plenty of opportunities” for managers to intervene but “nothing had been done to help him”.

Last night, the BBC said it was “determined to learn lessons” from the case. “Disappointingly, the report refers to behaviour which falls below the high standards we expect of all those who work for the BBC,” it added.

The Corporation will set up a confidential helpline for workers who are worried about harassment or bullying but do not feel able to raise their concerns with managers or human resources staff. The helpline will be run by an independent body.

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that an employee of the BBC’s investigative programme Panorama has been suspended after accusations that a producer attempted to bribe a security consultant for information.

The programme, which was due to air on Monday, has been postponed. The Corporation said it was “reviewing the facts”.