12:34, January 18 145 0 theguardian.com

2019-01-18 12:34:04
BBC Asian Network head cleared over naming sexual abuse victim

The head of news at BBC Asian Network has been found not guilty of breaching the Sexual Offences Act after a reporter revealed the identity of a Rotherham sexual abuse victim live on air.

Arif Ansari was editor of a radio programme when a reporter read the full name of a victim in a live broadcast outside Sheffield crown court, where he was reporting on the trial of her abuser on 6 February 2018.

The reporter, Rickin Majithia, said he believed the name to be a pseudonym, leading to the charge being brought against Ansari, who was said to have been sent the script beforehand.

On Friday, following the two-day trial at Sheffield magistrates’ court, Ansari was found not guilty.

He had been charged with breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, which entitles all complainants of sexual offences to lifelong anonymity. He had denied the charge and the BBC had criticised the decision to charge Ansari instead of the corporation.

During the trial, Ansari said he had not questioned the reporter’s script, which included the name of the rape victim, because maintaining the anonymity of sexual offence victims was a basic journalistic principle.

Ansari said: “I trusted his journalism. He was a good journalist. This was not a complex legal issue.

“This is what journalists are taught at journalism school. It just struck me as 100% accurate.

“Rickin was a senior journalist. He had a background, professional relationship with the victim in question. I didn’t. I had never met her.

“Furthermore, I knew that he knew that he could not name her, use her real name. Put all these factors together, it did not occur to me that this [script] could be wrong.”

In his evidence, Majithia said he had never reported on a court case before.

Ansari said he did not know this until his reporter had returned to London “very badly shaken” and “in a really bad way” after the mistake became clear.

“I remember being somewhat shocked that he hadn’t previously told me that,” he told the court.

Majithia realised his error 10 minutes after the live broadcast when he received a call from Jayne Senior, a community worker in Rotherham.

Majithia had previously met the victim when had been given both her real name and her pseudonym, and said he went on to confuse these during the report.

Following the verdict, Majithia released a statement in which he apologised to the victim and her family.

He said: “I had previously reported on how much they had suffered at the hands of a grooming gang. It pains me to know that this mistake has caused further hurt.

“The mistake happened without malice or intent. Nevertheless, it should not have happened at all.”

Majithia revealed that he was relieved of his reporting duties by the BBC within days of the broadcast.

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