Story by The Hollywood London Team
Donal MacIntyre the criminologist, an award-winning investigative reporter and documentary-maker – made a special announcement this week in relation to a “60 Minutes Australia” TV feature on the Fashion Industry. He has worked for the BBC in a number of capacities including freelance and full-time roles between 1993 and 2017. He is the producer of the upcoming “Murder at the Cottage’ – a crime strand for Sky (directed by six-time Oscar nominated Irish director, Jim Sheridan) and is a former Visiting Professor in Criminology at Birmingham City University.
I applaud ‘60 Minutes Australia’ for re-visiting the journalism of my programme with the BBC, 21 years ago – and in doing so – giving renewed voice to the victims of Gerald Marie and others in the fashion industry. ‘60 Minutes Australia’ have courageously broadcast the testimonies of 12 women, 6 of whom accuse Gerald Marie, the former head of Elite, of rape.
Marie, who led Elite for 25 years and remained a director until 2010 , was the central target of my undercover expose, broadcast on BBC1 in December 1999. I spent hundreds of hours in his company in France, Italy, Spain and Russia in 1998 and 1999 undercover, masquerading as a roving international documentary photographer.
The ‘60 Minutes’ editorial team, Executive Producer Kirsty Thomson, Reporter Tara Brown and Producer Thea Dikeos, have shown great dedication and skill in seeking out victims and giving them their say, decades after the BBC settled with Elite, in a libel settlement, which I was not party to and never supported. Indeed, I was not privy to the terms of the confidential settlement agreement and was not involved (save providing multiple statements) in the BBC litigation team’s [libel action] defence.
It is understood that no damages were paid, but the BBC agreed to quarantine the evidence and programme material in perpetuity. I stand by today, as I did then, all the allegations in the programme, and I remain deeply distressed that the settlement appeared to have been made without any concern for the victims that my journalistic team found, and others whose testimony was subsequently recorded by the BBC litigation department, but never broadcast.
It is my belief that the settlement thwarted journalistic inquiry into the abuses in fashion for nearly two decades, and that the settlement was singularly made by the BBC with their narrow corporate interests at heart, without cause or concern for the wider fallout and victimology of those women who supported this near two-year investigation and the impact on other victims of the industry from both before – and after the broadcast of the programme.
The BBC admitted that there were editing failures in the programme which I became aware of after broadcast, but none of those failures undermined the truth of any of the allegations about the abuse and exploitation of models, particularly young models in the industry which appeared in our undercover investigation which was filmed over nearly two years across the globe from Paris and Milan to London and Moscow.
I have recently been made aware of claims that the BBC Litigation Department have been reluctant to hand over some of the quarantined evidence and material we gathered between 1998-2000, which could be useful in criminal and civil proceedings against perpetrators of abuse and exploitation – and which is currently being sought by lawyers representing some victims. This would be an intolerable and unsustainable position and I call upon the BBC Governors to ensure that all relevant material is passed by the BBC to all appropriate authorities in the interests of the victims, which my journalistic team sought to support and whose experiences we brought to worldwide attention in 1999.
The material should be given without qualification and equivocation and should include all additional testimonies and statements, including those from young victims of sexual assault garnered by the BBC Litigation Department after broadcast, which may assist any criminal or civil prosecution.
It is equally concerning that claims have also been made that while the BBC have denied victims access to the material; it is alleged that it afforded others outside of the BBC access to the material without adequate justification or apparent merit. These are questions that the BBC Governors must address with the BBC Litigation Department.
The BBC must, in respect of this litigation and future litigation, engage with the wider moral map and accept that it owes a debt of obligation to more than just its short-term corporate interests but also to the victims of abuse in the fashion industry and beyond. This is the moral imperative that is granted to the Corporation by the licence fee payer.
I salute the women who bravely put their trust in us in 1999 and I salute the women who have similarly done so again in 2021 for ‘60 Minutes’. The BBC let them down 21 years ago, but I hope the fine work of ‘60 Minutes Australia’ will go some way to restoring journalistic faith in the minds of the brave and courageous women who have come forward to tell their harrowing stories of abuse, exploitation and rape in the fashion industry.
Most importantly, the ‘60 Minutes’ programme holds to account those, who for decades abused and facilitated the abuse of young women in the fashion industry.
I am grateful that ‘60 Minutes’ afforded me the opportunity to join their team and confront Gerald Marie directly and put to him allegations of sexual assault from 12 women, including six allegations of rape.
This allowed me to close the circle of a 21-year journalistic odyssey and to uphold my commitment to bring justice to the victims of Gerald Marie and other casualties of the fashion business. The trauma of Marie’s victims and their pain has been the driving force for this ‘60 Minutes’ production and for all of us involved in helping to bring this story to air.
I am deeply grateful for the dedication of Lisa Brinkworth (53), a former BBC colleague of mine, who contributed substantially to the ‘60 Minutes’ programme and who was the journalist who brought this story to me at the BBC in April 1998 and has fought tenaciously for this cause over the last 21 years.
I have always regarded the BBC as the world’s best broadcaster. In that regard my view has not wavered. But it is not perfect and indeed, in respect of the ‘Elite’ settlement, the BBC let down generations of young models and many women who were exploited and abused for decades before our broadcast – and for the two decades following.
Donal MacIntyre. 16.5.21
“For forty years, 60 Minutes Australia have been telling the world’s greatest stories. Tales that changed history, our nation and our lives. Reporters Liz Hayes, Allison Langdon, Tara Brown, Charles Wooley, Liam Bartlett and Sarah Abo look past the headlines because there is always a bigger picture. Sundays are for 60 Minutes.“