The young person at the centre of claims against a BBC presenter insisted last night that “nothing inappropriate or unlawful” had taken place and described allegations of sexual impropriety against the star as “rubbish”.
It follows four days of snowballing scandal which has led to the suspension of the household-name broadcaster over allegations, reported in The Sun newspaper, that he had made payments to a teenager in exchange for sexually-explicit images.
The young person, now 20, sent a denial to the tabloid saying the story was “totally wrong and there was no truth in it” – but, “nonetheless, the Sun newspaper preceded to publish their inappropriate article,” their lawyer said in a letter to the BBC.
The unnamed lawyer, who the BBC said worked for a multinational practice, added: “For the avoidance of doubt nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality.”
A spokesperson for The Sun said: “We have reported a story about two very concerned parents who made a complaint to the BBC about the behaviour of a presenter and the welfare of their child.
“Their complaint was not acted upon by the BBC. We have seen evidence that supports their concerns. It’s now for the BBC to properly investigate.”
The Sun – which had not previously published the denial it is alleged to have received days ago – later published a response from the person’s mother in which they claimed the presenter had “got into their head,” adding: “It is sad but we stand by our account and we hope they get the help they need.”
Their step-father added: “We are disappointed they made a statement. It’s not true… [the BBC] are not telling the truth. I told them the youngster was 20 and it had been going on for three years.”
In a detail not included in The Sun‘s previous reporting, however, the stepdad suggested that he had “gone to the police” previously about the ongoing contact with the presenter and had been told “it wasn’t illegal”.
He also told the newspaper the initial complaint to the BBC had come in May this year after the presenter tried to meet with the person – who is 20 years old – at a train station.
The removal of the BBC presenter from on-screen duties was announced on Sunday following the allegations that he had paid £35,000 over a period of three years, after exchanging “sleazy messages” with the teenager from age 17.
The corporation is facing claims that it failed to act when a complaint was received from the young person’s mother on 19 May, and only escalated the allegations and took action seven weeks later shortly before publication on Friday by The Sun.
The mother had claimed payments from a BBC star had helped fuel a crack cocaine addiction, accusing him of “destroying my child’s life” and “taking my child’s innocence”.
She said: “All I want is for this man to stop paying my child for sexual pictures and stop him funding my child’s drug habit.”
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun had published further claims on Sunday night that the unnamed presenter made “panicked” phone calls to the young person when the allegations began to surface last week, asking, “What have you done?”
The BBC said on Sunday it had suspended the presenter to investigate the “serious” allegations and contacted the police.
On Monday, Scotland Yard announced that it is “assessing” information following an online meeting with BBC investigators yesterday and making “further enquiries” to establish where there is evidence that criminal offence could have been committed.
A Metropolitan Police statement said: “Detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command met with representatives from the BBC on the morning of 10 July. The meeting took place virtually.
“They are assessing the information discussed at the meeting and further enquiries are taking place to establish whether there is evidence of a criminal offence being committed. There is no investigation at this time.”
On a fast-moving day, pressure had grown from within the BBC for a way to calm the storm engulfing the broadcaster amid frustration that the allegations were gaining momentum on social media and forcing other high-profile presenters to publicly deny that they were the individual concerned.
BBC journalists had called for the suspended presenter to allow himself to be named as a means of preventing other colleagues facing baseless smears. Among the BBC stars to have publicly ruled themselves out as the accused figure are Gary Lineker and Nicky Campbell, with the latter revealing that he has made a formal complaint to police about false social media claims against him.
Staffers at the Corporation said that the identity of the presenter was becoming increasingly widely known both within and outside the BBC. One insider said: “The news team want the green light from bosses to name the person. We’re a news organisation and this is a story we ought to be leading from the front on.”
But it is understood BBC managers have insisted that investigative procedures and privacy rules must be followed and it would be for the presenter to decide if he wants to reveal his identity. According to one report, the embattled presenter is “lawyered up to the max” and is refusing to consent to being identified.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the Corporation may need to face an investigation into why it had not moved to suspend its star after first receiving the allegations rather than waiting seven weeks and acting after the claims entered the public domain.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC takes any allegations seriously and we have robust internal processes in place to proactively deal with such allegations.
“This is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances and the BBC is working as quickly as possible to establish the facts in order to properly inform appropriate next steps.
“It is important that these matters are handled fairly and with care.
“We have been clear that if – at any point – new information comes to light or is provided to us, this will be acted upon appropriately and actively followed up.
“The BBC first became aware of a complaint in May. New allegations were put to us on Thursday of a different nature and in addition to our own enquiries we have also been in touch with external authorities, in line with our protocols.
“We can also confirm a male member of staff has been suspended.
“We expect to be in a position to provide a further update in the coming days as the process continues.”