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Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Bolton School Old Girl Dame Janet Smith is to head up the BBC’s inquiry into the Jimmy Savile scandal.
It has been announced that she and ex-Sky News executive Nick Pollard will jointly lead the BBC's independent reviews. Dame Janet will lead the examination of the "culture and practices of the BBC" during the years Savile worked there.
The former Court of Appeal judge is known for her acute grasp of complex legal matters, highlighted when she chaired the Harold Shipman inquiry twelve years ago. Her sympathetic manner helped her discuss painful memories with bereaved relatives at the public inquiry, and she had to sift through tens of thousands of statements and documents before reaching her conclusions.
Stockport-born Dame Janet was called to the Bar in 1972 at the comparatively late age of 32, having turned down a place to read science at Girton College, Cambridge, while she was at Bolton School in order to marry and have children. She joined chambers in Manchester, where she was a pupil of Christopher Rose QC, later Lord Justice Rose, and 14 years later was herself made a QC. She was appointed a recorder, or part-time judge, in 1988, and a High Court judge four years later. She was known as a calm and incisive advocate who specialised in medical negligence and industrial disease cases - a background that made her an ideal choice for the Shipman inquiry. As a judge she approved the landmark £500 million settlement for 30,000 miners suffering from "white finger" syndrome. In 1991 she chaired the investigation into the ill-treatment of autistic children at Scotforth House, a local authority home in Lancaster.
Headmistress of the Girls’ Division, Miss Sue Hincks, feels that Dame Janet is a shining example of how former members of Bolton Girls’ School have gone on and had a significant, beneficial impact on the life of this country. She said: “We take very seriously the role of today’s School, which is to prepare current pupils to go out in to the world with the skills and qualities which will allow them to make a difference in the future”.