Savile victims allege pedophile ring
Updated: 2012-10-26 10:04
A sex scandal gripping Britain's BBC deepened on Wednesday with claims that a pedophile ring had existed involving some of its stars, as its former director-general said his handling of the case shouldn't stop him becoming the boss of the New York Times.
The BBC has been thrown into disarray by accusations it helped cover up sexual abuse by one of its most celebrated former presenters, Jimmy Savile, and has struggled to explain why one of its own shows killed an investigation into it.
The broadcaster's current Director-General George Entwistle has been condemned for his handling of one of the worst crises in the corporation's 90-year history, and questions have also been raised about his predecessor Mark Thompson, who is set to take over at the New York Times next month.
The British government warned the BBC on Wednesday that the scandal was raising "very real concerns" about public trust.
"These allegations do leave many institutions, perhaps particularly the BBC, with serious questions to answer," Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament.
Police and the BBC, which is funded by the public through an annual license fee, are looking into allegations that the eccentric, cigar-chomping Savile, who died last year, abused young girls over six decades.
The BBC scandal has horrified Britain with revelations that Savile, a popular children's television presenter, cajoled and coerced vulnerable teens into having sex with him in his car, in his camper van and even in dingy dressing rooms on BBC premises. He is also accused of sexually assaulting disabled children at hospitals that he helped by raising charity funds.
Lawyers representing some of the male and female victims, some of whom were as young as 8 when the abuse occurred, said their clients had indicated an organized pedophile ring involving other celebrities had existed at the BBC during the height of Savile's fame in the 1970s and 1980s.
"There is information of a possible pedophile ring, and we have people who have approached us with that information," said Alicia Alinia, one of the lead lawyers involved in the cases for the Slater and Gordon law firm.
"It seems to be a number of people who were involved other than Jimmy Savile, I can't reveal any specific names of celebrities involved, but it seems as though it wasn't just limited to unknowns."
Earlier, the BBC said new allegations had been made against nine current BBC staff or contributors since revelations about Savile were first broadcast by rival British channel ITV.
These ranged from inappropriate language or behavior to harassment and serious claims of sexual assault.
The New York Times stood by its incoming chief on Wednesday, even as questions about the BBC child sex abuse scandal followed him from one of Britain's most respected news organizations to one of the US'.
But as new CEO, Thompson was getting support from his new bosses, the Times ombudsman questioned his fitness for the job.
And in Britain, a lawmaker said he had more questions for Thompson.
In a letter to a lawmaker and an interview with the Times, Thompson said he never knew of the Savile story before it was spiked and had never met the network's popular star.
New York Times spokesman Bob Christie said on Wednesday that the BBC scandal had "obviously been a topic that we've discussed" internally, but the Times was satisfied with Thompson's answers.
"Mark has done an excellent job of explaining the matter," Christie said. Thompson said he played no role in spiking the BBC investigation and "we're satisfied with that."
Thompson will start as the organization's CEO on Nov 12, Christie said.
Police say there could be more than 200 victims, leading one child protection charity to say that Savile could rank among Britain's most prolific child sex predators.
As increasing numbers of BBC executives come under the microscope over what they knew about Savile - and why the posthumous expose about his sexual crimes was shelved - Thompson, 55, is being quizzed about his role as well.