BBC editor found not guilty over the naming of sexual abuse victim in live broadcast

BBC editor found not guilty over the naming of sexual abuse victim in live broadcast

Arif Ansari outside Sheffield Magistrates Court before he was found not guilty of breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. Image: Nathan Sandhu/SWNS

Sunday, January 20, 2019

An editor of BBC Asian Network was found not guilty over the naming of a sexual abuse victim during a live radio news bulletin, on Friday.

Arif Ansari, 44, was in charge of news at the station when a reporter under his command read the name of the woman on air.

Head of News Ansari had been accused of breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 which gives victims of sexual offences lifetime anonymity.

Under the act, reports related to proceedings must therefore not reveal their name, address or any other detail which may lead to their identification.

District Judge Naomi Redhouse described the broadcast as an "honest mistake" after Ansari was found not guilty following a two-day trial at Sheffield Magistrates' Court.

The abuse victim sat through the trial and left at the end with a man in the public gallery who shouted: “You were lucky she wasn’t found dead, mate.”


A pseudonym

The trial centred around a live broadcast by reporter Rickin Majithia from outside Sheffield Crown Court on February 6, 2018, at 5pm.

Mr Majithia, who had never previously reported on any court proceedings, named the victim in a Rotherham child sexual exploitation trial.

He was told about his mistake ten minutes after the bulletin aired after receiving a call from a community worker.

The court was told that Mr Majithia had previously been communicating with the woman after interviewing her in 2017 for the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

Mr Majithia told the court that he made the error because he wrongly believed the name the woman had been referred to as in court was a pseudonym.

During the broadcast, Mr Majithia said: “The woman cannot be named for legal reasons, but has been referred to in court with the pseudonym,” and then proceeded to use her real name, but mispronounced her surname.


'Excellent journalist' 

Mr Majithia told the court he sent the script used during the broadcast to Ansari who approved it 20 minutes before the live news bulletin.

Ansari, of BBC Portland Place, London told the court he regarded Mr Majithia to be an “excellent journalist” and had no reason to suspect he had inadvertently named the woman in his script.

As she delivered her verdict, Judge Redhouse said: “I find Mr Ansari did not have any reason to suspect the breach; and so, Mr Ansari, I find you not guilty.”

She added: “There may be lessons in this case for the training of court reporters. That's not going to be a matter for me."

In a statement from Mr Majithia released following the hearing, he said: “I was horrified and I am horrified.

“I’m deeply, deeply sorry to the victim and her family.

“It’s something I will regret until the day I die.”