Savile investigation: appointment of Legal firm linked to BBC questioned

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The Independent Online

Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, has been asked to reconsider the decision to appoint a legal firm that works for the BBC as the secretariat for the broadcaster's independent inquiries relating to sex abuse by Jimmy Savile.

Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, has written to Lord Patten to question the appointment of Reed Smith, a London firm that includes the BBC among its clients, as secretariat to a review being led by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News, into why a Newsnight investigation into Savile was dropped. He has made a similar challenge in relation to the firm's role in a second review led by Dame Janet Smith into Savile's activities at the BBC.

"In the case of the Pollard review in particular, the role of the independent secretariat in gathering and interpreting evidence will be particularly important given that Mr Pollard appears to be conducting his review alone, without the support of any other panelists" said the MP in his letter. "He can therefore be expected to be reliant, to some extent, on the work of the secretariat provided by Reed Smith."

Mr Wilson said he had "no wish to impugn the integrity" of the legal firm but noted "the BBC appears to be an important client of Reed Smith and there is evidence of an ongoing relationship between the BBC and the firm". The MP said Reed Smith's Broadcasting and Digital Content Distribution arm and its Film & Television Production & Distribution division "both list the BBC as a client".

Reed Smith is a distinguished global law firm with headquarters in Pittsburgh and offices throughout the world, including in London. The BBC Trust said last night that it had only just received Mr Wilson's letter and would be responding to the MP before commenting.