A senior BBC executive has been cleared of breaching the law which gives victims of sex offences lifelong anonymity, after a reporter named a complainant in a live radio broadcast.
Arif Ansari, head of news at BBC Asian Network, was found not guilty of breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 following a two-day trial at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court.
The trial centred around what District Judge Naomi Redhouse called an “honest mistake” in a broadcast by reporter Rickin Majithia from outside Sheffield Crown Court in February last year.
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.
Ansari, 44, said he had no reason to doubt what his reporter had told him, especially as not naming complainants of sex offences was “as basic as it gets”.
Majithia previously told the court he found out about his mistake about 10 minutes after the broadcast when he had a call from Jayne Senior, a community worker in Rotherham.
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.”
The woman who was named in the report sat through the trial and left at the end with a man, believed to be her father, shouting: “You were lucky she wasn’t found dead, mate.”
A BBC spokesman said: “From the start we have accepted that mistakenly naming a victim of sexual abuse during a live broadcast last February was a serious mistake.
“We apologised directly to the individual concerned and to the court, and we reiterate that again today.
“The CPS had a choice to charge the BBC and/or the editor. We firmly believe that it should have been the BBC itself answering in court for this mistake, rather than the individual editor.
“As we have said previously, we are concerned that the approach taken by the CPS risks creating a climate of fear for editors seeking to cover the courts in the public interest.
He added that Ansari and Majithia continue to have the BBC’s full support.
“The judge commented that Rickin was a diligent reporter who had made an honest mistake.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for Arif. He is a highly-regarded and diligent editor who has had the threat of a criminal record hanging over him for many months. We are relieved with the court’s decision today.”