Reed Smith has received nearly a million pounds in legal fees as a result of assisting in the BBC’s investigation into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal as the corporation comes under criticism for spending a total of £5m of licence fee payers’ money on three reviews.
The BBC’s annual report today (17 July) revealed that the cost of the Pollard Review – one of three reviews set up in the wake of the Savile scandal – was £2.8m, of which £893,500 went to Reed Smith.
However, the firm is also assisting in a further review into the culture and practices of the BBC led by Dame Janet Smith, the costs of which have not yet been revealed.
The review led by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard sought to establish whether there were any failings in the BBC’s management of the Newsnight investigation relating to allegations of sexual abuse of children by Jimmy Savile, including the broadcast of tribute programmes on the BBC.
Reed Smith led by commercial disputes head Richard Spafford alongside partners Carolyn Pepper and Ben Summerfield was instructed in October, in a move welcomed by culture secretary Maria Miller (in a letter to BBC Trust Chair Lord Patten) as being ‘independent’ and ‘free from conflicts of interest.’ However, the appointment was later criticised by Conservative MP for Reading Bob Wilson, as Reed Smith is a longstanding legal adviser to the BBC.
The annual report also reveals that a further £492,000 was spent on external legal costs in connection with the Pollard review. According to the document, these costs were for the review of the hard copy disclosure from witnesses, the electronic email review of over 30,000 documents, the review of the appendices and transcripts, and preparation of material for disclosure and publication.
The BBC set up three reviews in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal: the Pollard Review; the Respect at Work Review assisted by Dinah Rose QC which was published on 2 May 2013; and Dame Janet Smith’s review into the culture and practices of the BBC during the years that Jimmy Savile worked at the BBC. This includes a detailed investigation by Dame Linda Dobbs DBE into the conduct of Stuart Hall at the BBC, and will publish later this year.
A spokesperson for Reed Smith said: ‘Reed Smith has been providing legal and secretariat advice to the Pollard and Dame Janet Smith Reviews since November 2012. Our role has included providing legal advice to the review chairs, advising in relation to the collection of evidence and the preparation or reports. The terms of each engagement are confidential and Reed Smith is unable to comment further.’
BBC Trust and BBC Executive Costs (excluding VAT and tax) for The Pollard Review:
Nick Pollard – £81,600.00
Reed Smith (inc. fees and disbursements) – £893,501.35
Witnesses’ legal costs – £391,120.92
BBC’s external legal support (inc. fees and disbursements) – £492,436.62
BBC’s technical support (email archive extraction and document management) – £227,292.31
Total cost to the BBC Executive – £2,085,951.20
Total cost to the BBC Trust (external legal support) -£360,910