BBC exec ‘shocked’ by error that led to rape victim being named on radio

A senior BBC executive has told a court how he did not question the script of a live radio broadcast that named a rape victim because he trusted his journalist and not naming complainants of sex offences was “as basic as it gets”.

BBC Asian Network head of news Arif Ansari, 44, was giving evidence at his trial at Sheffield Magistrates Court about a broadcast by reporter Rickin Majithia from outside Sheffield Crown Court in February last year.

A district judge has heard how Mr Majithia made a “genuine mistake” when he included the real name of the complainant in the trial he was covering.

The reporter told the court on Thursday how he made the error as he wrongly believed the name the woman had been referred to in court was a pseudonym.

Arif Ansari court case
Arif Ansari court case

The court has heard how Mr Majithia explicitly said in his report that the name was a pseudonym and Ansari said he had no reason to doubt this.

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

“This is as basic as it gets. This is what journalists are taught at journalism school.”

Ansari said: “It just struck me as 100% accurate.

“Rickin was a senior journalist, one of my senior reporters.

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

“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 could be wrong.”

The editor added: “I trusted my reporter and the reason I sent him to Sheffield was to make sure he got it right.”

Ansari explained to the district judge about conversations he had with Mr Majithia about legal aspects of the case before he travelled to Sheffield.

He said his main legal concerns were over the reporter’s plan to interview the woman and whether any report would prejudice a future, linked trial.

Ansari said: “The fact we couldn’t name the victim is just straightforward and very obvious.

“That wasn’t my concern.”

Mr Majithia has told the court that the trial in Sheffield was the first court case he had ever covered as a journalist.

Ansari said he did not know this until his reporter 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.

He agreed that he had described Mr Majithia as a “bit of a loose canon” but said this referred to him not always communicating about stories he was researching.

Ansari – who was BBC North-West Political Editor for seven years – described how the first he knew about the mistake was when Mr Majithia rang him 10 minutes after his live broadcast.

He said: “He was in a state of panic – ‘I’ve got the name wrong’. He just said ‘it wasn’t a pseudonym, that was her real name’.”

Ansari, of BBC Portland Place, London, denies breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 which affords lifelong anonymity to anyone who complains of being the victim of a sexual offence.