Departing BBC director Lucy Adams using licence fee cash to back fight against journalists' union

Head of human resources turned to lawyers over 'highly defamatory' claims of 'dirty tricks' operation

Media Editor

The BBC is using the licence fee to pay the legal fees of its controversial and departing £320,000-a-year head of human resources after she instructed lawyers to "take matters further" when a trade union made claims of a "dirty tricks" operation at the broadcaster.

Lucy Adams, who has announced she is leaving the corporation in March to "try something new", was heavily criticised over her role in the BBC executive pay scandal. Stewart Jackson MP, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the parliamentary watchdog, said she "presided over" a culture of "corporate fraud and cronyism".

But the BBC is paying Ms Adams's fees after she turned to lawyers over what she said were "highly defamatory" claims made by the National Union of Journalists, which published a statement in August about an alleged campaign by the BBC human resources department of "hacking staff emails and bullying employees into spying on colleagues".

The NUJ's claims were instantly dismissed by the BBC as "false and without foundation". Ms Adams, who complained of "an unwarranted and very personal attack", instructed libel lawyers.

In response to a Freedom of Information request seen by The Independent, the BBC has confirmed that it is paying Ms Adams's legal bills. "As the NUJ article made serious and damaging allegations against Lucy Adams in her role as the BBC's Director of Human Resources, the BBC has agreed to fund the reasonable costs of Ms Adams seeking external legal advice," it said.

The BBC said Ms Adams could receive further financial support if she decides to proceed further with any legal action. "The funding currently covers the provision of legal advice to Ms Adams prior to the issue of proceedings and her lawyer's costs must be approved by the BBC in advance in incremental caps, with an explanation of the work that needs to be undertaken," it said.

Mr Jackson, a Conservative MP, said that he would be asking senior BBC figures to explain the payments to the PAC. "The BBC seems to have learned nothing from the recent exposure of its largesse and profligacy with license fee-payers cash and culture of corporate greed and cronyism," he said. "If this is the case, I will press for the senior management and Trust Board to return to the Public Accounts Committee and fully account for this inappropriate expenditure."

Paul Farrelly MP, a Labour member of the Culture, Media & Sport committee, said he was surprised that Ms Adams had not already left the BBC. "What is still a mystery is why she's still there, having been part and parcel of a culture that the new Director General said he wants to leave behind. If the BBC is funding a defence to a libel action that is more personal than professional then the BBC Trust must ask searching questions of the BBC executive."

In a damning report into executive pay-offs at the BBC this year, the National Audit Office found that the organisation had made severance payments totalling £60m to 401 senior managers since 2005. Ms Adams, who joined the BBC in 2009, having previously worked at the legal firm Eversheds and the outsourcing giant Serco Group, has told MPs she was under pressure to reduce costs and get executives "out of the door as quickly as possible". She informed Director General Tony Hall this summer that she was leaving in the spring of 2014.

Lord Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, told the PAC that the executive pay-offs at the BBC had caused him "shock and dismay". During her evidence to MPs, Ms Adams was criticised by committee chairman Margaret Hodge who said: "You're developing a habit of changing your evidence."

Lucy Adams in front of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, in September (PA) Lucy Adams in front of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, in September (PA)
The HR director was deeply unpopular among BBC staff and the news of her departure was greeted with cheers in some of the organisation's newsrooms. But Lord Hall said he would be "sorry to see her go".

It is not the first time that the BBC has providing licence fee money to pay for senior executives to defend their personal reputations.

During Nick Pollard's review of the BBC's handling of the Savile scandal, the corporation spent £101,000 of the total £2.4m cost on paying the "legal and related costs" of the under-fire Director of BBC News, Helen Boaden, who was on a salary of £354,000. Pollard criticised Ms Boaden's handling of the scandal. "The division she headed was in virtual meltdown, and I would have expected her to have taken a more active role in resolving things." The review reported that Ms Boaden, now director of BBC Radio, offered to step down over the matter but her resignation was refused by Director General George Entwistle.

When Mr Entwistle quit his job over the Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals, the BBC paid his personal lawyers and public relations advisers as he faced a barrage of criticism over a settlement worth £450,000.  Some £10,000 was paid by the BBC for the legal advice Mr Entwistle received in securing that pay-off. He was paid another £10,000 from the licence fee to cover his "communications costs" during the turbulent period. The broadcaster paid £107,000 for Mr Entwistle's costs during internal inquiries into the scandals. Mr Entwistle's predecessor as DG, Mark Thompson, received £86,000 for legal fees incurred during Pollard's review.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone