BBC apologises for delayed action in Huw Edwards complaint, launches review of procedures

Huw Edwards

28th February 2024 – (London) The BBC has issued an apology to the parents of a young individual who filed a complaint against suspended BBC presenter Huw Edwards, acknowledging that it should have responded more promptly. Following the scandal that unfolded in July last year, the corporation initiated a review of its complaints procedure.

Since being named as the BBC presenter accused of multiple allegations, including the payment for sexually explicit photos from a 17-year-old over several years since 2020, Edwards has remained silent. In a statement released by his wife, it was revealed that he is battling “serious mental health issues” and had received inpatient hospital care after experiencing a “serious episode” in the wake of the controversy. The statement also mentioned that he would address the published stories once he was well enough to do so.

Leigh Tavaziva, BBC group chief operating officer, stated on Tuesday that the review had identified “specific process shortcomings” in the complaint lodged against Edwards. She admitted that the initial complaint had not been escalated promptly to senior management, and the corporation had apologized to the complainant for this oversight.

An internal workplace investigation is currently underway to determine whether Edwards, who presented the BBC’s News at Ten for two decades and covered major events such as the death of Queen Elizabeth II, brought disrepute to the broadcaster.

In response to the review findings, the BBC announced its plans to strengthen its procedures for handling non-editorial complaints. The report, conducted by Deloitte partner Simon Cuerden, highlighted the need for greater consistency across the BBC despite the existence of policies, procedures, and expertise in dealing with serious complaints.

The review revealed that the initial complaint was made at a BBC location in Cardiff on 18th May, but it was not escalated or logged in the BBC system at the time, resulting in limited visibility within the organisation. The lack of documented processes for contact and follow-ups with the complainant contributed to the unclear course of action when initial contact attempts were unsuccessful.

To prevent such occurrences in the future, the BBC has implemented a new “escalation mechanism.” The review also addressed employee concerns about raising complaints, particularly when there is a perceived power discrepancy between the complainant and the subject of the complaint.

The review was prompted by a report in The Sun last July, which detailed allegations that a “well-known presenter” had provided significant financial support to a 20-year-old crack cocaine user in exchange for explicit images since they were 17.

The parents of the young person claimed their complaint made to the BBC in May of the same year was ignored. While the BBC acknowledged the complaint had been assessed by the corporate investigations team, there were no allegations of criminality at that stage, according to BBC boss Tim Davie.

In a letter to the BBC in July, the person’s lawyer vehemently denied the allegations, stating that nothing inappropriate or unlawful had occurred between their client and the BBC personality.

The BBC stated that it had previously reached out to the complainant, a family member, via email for more information but did not receive a response. A follow-up call was attempted on 6th June but was unsuccessful.

On 6th July, the BBC received new allegations, which marked the first time the director general and executive directors were made aware of the claims. Immediately, the presenter was taken off air, and the serious case management framework was initiated on 7th July, leading to the suspension of the presenter on 9th July.