BBC editor on trial for naming sex abuse victim
It is the first time a BBC editor has been charged with breaching law entitling complainants to lifelong anonymity
For the first time, a senior BBC editor has gone on trial over the naming of a sexual abuse victim on a live radio broadcast.
BBC Asian Network’s head of news, Arif Ansari, has been charged in his capacity as editor after one of his reporters used a victim’s real name live on air, despite a law entitling all complainants to lifelong anonymity.
Rickin Majithia had been sent to cover the trial linked to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal. When submitting his script to Ansari he used the witness’s real name which was read out in court, which he thought was a pseudonym.
According to the Daily Telegraph the reporter “had a number of previous dealings with the woman as he investigated the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal and had become confused, thinking that the name he had always called her was her real one, when it was not”.
It was the first time he had done court reporting and had never even attended a crown court before to watch a case, says the BBC.
HuffPostUK reports that he also told the court he had been suffering from stress at work, something he said Ansari knew.
The prosecution said this was significant because Ansari knew he was inexperienced. They argue the editor failed to query the name of the victim before approving the script or check it with BBC lawyers and that ultimately he was responsible for output that day.
In a statement read to the court, the complainant said: “I immediately panicked but carried on listening”.
She said it had been hard enough to give evidence in the first place and “to then have my name given out as a victim of rape on a BBC radio station was unbelievable.”
After realising the mistake, Majithia wrote an email to the witness, saying “I made a human error. It was a moment of confusion I will regret forever”, but did not send it due to advice from his superiors.
Under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, from the moment a complaint of sexual abuse is made, all publishers and broadcasters are banned from naming the complainant unless they choose to waive their anonymity or a court orders otherwise.
It is the first time a BBC editor has been charged under the act.