The editor of a BBC radio station that used the real name of a South Yorkshire child abuse victim during a live news bulletin has been cleared of breaking the law.
District Judge, Naomi Redhouse, cleared BBC Asian Network editor, Arif Ansari, of breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 today, following a two-day trial at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court.
The abuse victim was present throughout the trial. After Mr Ansari was found not guilty, a man who had been sitting with the woman in the public gallery, shouted to him: “You were lucky she weren’t found dead, mate; you were lucky she weren’t found dead.”
Under the act, victims of sex offences are entitled to lifelong anonymity.
The Crown alleged Mr Ansari, 44, had breached the act when his reporter, Ricklin Majithia, named the victim in a Rotherham child sexual exploitation trial that he was reporting on in February last year during a live broadcast for the station.
The court was told that Mr Majithia had previously been communicating with the woman after interviewing her in 2017 for the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Despite introducing herself to Mr Majithia by her real forename when they first met, the court heard how by the time of the broadcast in question, Mr Majithia believed that the pseudonym the woman subsequently used in communication with him was her real name.
Mr Majithia had never previously reported on any court proceedings, and said he thought the name the complainant was referred to in court was an alias that was being used to protect her identity.
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.
Mr Majithia told the court he sent Mr Ansari the script used during the broadcast, and Mr Ansari approved it 20 minutes before the live news bulletin.
Mr 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."
Following the hearing, Mr Majithia released a statement through which he apologised to the woman and said he will feel ‘deeply sorry’ for naming her for the rest of his life.