Justice minister wants independent inquiry into BBC journalist’s death

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November 13, 2012 by newsgetting

Jeremy Wright urges Maria Miller and Lord Patten to intervene in investigation into Russell Joslin’s apparent suicide

The culture secretary, Maria Miller, and BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, are facing mounting calls from MPs including justice minister Jeremy Wright to intervene over an inquiry into the apparent suicide of BBC broadcaster Russell Joslin, amid bullying and sexual harassment allegations.
Wright has written to Patten and Miller in protest over the appointment of former BBC HR professional Lesley Granger to “oversee” an internal inquiry into the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire journalist’s death.
Wright, the Conservative MP for Kenilworth in Warwickshire where Joslin’s family lives, is one of four more MPs now joining Labour’s Jim Cunningham and Tory Chris White in calling for a fully independent inquiry.
They include Stratford-upon-Avon Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, who is also writing to Patten and Miller, as has Labour Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham, adding pressure on the culture secretary to intervene.
Joslin’s former BBC colleagues last month wrote to the then director general George Entwistle, complaining they felt their jobs would be compromised if they gave evidence to the internal inquiry “overseen by an external professional”, which is due to start this week.
An email sent to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire journalists by BBC West Midlands manager Cath Hearne states they could contact Granger in confidence if they wished to take part in the “thorough as possible” investigation.
Joslin, aged 50, died at Warwick Hospital on 22 October after being found asphyxiated at St Michael’s psychiatric hospital, Warwick. His death came days after he was largely uninjured after walking in front of a bus, in what his family, including his father Peter Joslin – a former Warwickshire police chief constable – said could have been a “cry for help”.
Texts on Joslin’s phone in the runup to his death show he had been in touch with BBC West Midlands managers including Hearne, who is the head of programmes, and was seeking to address work-related issues which saw him off sick with stress and depression this year.
They included his allegations of workplace bullying and sexual harassment by a former female colleague, and of BBC management sidelining him and mishandling his concerns and complaints over several years.
Warwickshire police is investigating his death for a coroner’s inquest.
Joslin’s family said the texts also reveal triggers for his actions including the Jimmy Savile scandal and BBC cover-up allegations, and allegedly being told by HR officials the corporation had no record of specific complaints he made to occupational health earlier this year.
Wright’s letter to Patten and Miller stated: “I have no doubt that Ms Granger is an expert in human resource issues and will bring a wealth of experience to the investigation but I, and the Joslin family, believe that any investigation into the causes of Mr Joslin’s death must be carried out by those who are, and are seen to be, sufficiently independent.
“BBC employees must have confidence in the investigation to be open in the evidence they give and I do not believe that Ms Granger, a former senior employee at the BBC until fairly recently, will bring that independence.
“We are all aware of how Mr Joslin’s case may play into the wider commentary on the BBC surrounding the alleged activities of Jimmy Savile, but I write on behalf of a grieving family, not a group of would-be campaigners.”
The email from Hearne to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire staff stated the conclusions of the investigation would be fed into the review by Dinah Rose QC, set up in the wake of the Savile scandal, into claims of sexual harassment across the corporation from the 1970s to the present. Rose’s review will also examine the BBC’s policies and processes relating to sexual harassment.

By Les Reid (The Guardian) 

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