South Yorkshire child abuse victim went into a '˜full meltdown' after being named on live BBC Asian Network bulletin, court told

A South Yorkshire child abuse victim was sent into a '˜full meltdown' and began '˜panicking and crying' after she was named during a live BBC Asian Network news bulletin, a court heard.Â

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17th January 2019, 5:42 pm
Updated Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:38 am
Arif Ansari, head of news at BBC Asian Network, arrives at Sheffield Magistrates court, South Yorks., to face charges of revealing the name of a sexual offence victim
Arif Ansari, head of news at BBC Asian Network, arrives at Sheffield Magistrates court, South Yorks., to face charges of revealing the name of a sexual offence victim

Editor of the BBC Asian Network, Arif Ansari, 43, has gone on trial at Sheffield Magistrates' Court today accused of breaching the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, in relation to a news broadcast on the radio station in February last year. 

Under the act, victims of a sexual offence are entitled to lifelong anonymity. 

The court heard how the error was made during a live news broadcast by BBC impact reporter, Rickin Majithia, who was reporting on a Rotherham child sexual exploitation trial at Sheffield Crown Court when he revealed the victim's full name. 

Mr Majithia said during the broadcast: 'The woman cannot be named for legal reasons, but she has been referred to in court with a pseudonym.'

He them proceeded to use her real name, but mispronounced her surname. 

Through a victim impact statement read out at Sheffield Magistrates' Court, the victim described how she was listening when the news bulletin was broadcast live. 

She said: 'At this point I went into a full meltdown, panicking and crying, and didn't hear anything else that was said.' 

Mr Majithia was alerted to his mistake by Rotherham community worker, Jayne Senior, minutes after the broadcast. 

Ms Senior told the court that she contacted Mr Majithia to inform him he had revealed the rape victim's real name live on air, after receiving a '˜hysterical' phone call from her.  

'I heard her screaming, and she became quite hysterical. She said: '˜He's named me, he's named me',' said Ms Senior. 

She said Mr Majitha initially told her he had not used her real name on air, and had referred to her by the '˜pseudonym used in court'. 

'I called him an idiot...I said it's criminal proceedings; what are you, stupid? Why would they allow her to use a different name in the trial,' added Ms Senior.

The court was told how Ms Senior helped to put Mr Majitha in touch with the woman and other child sexual exploitation victims in Rotherham when he visited Ms Senior's charity, Swinton Lock, in March 2017 for a news package for the Victoria Derbyshire programme. 

As he gave evidence, Mr Majitha said he believed the name he used during the bulletin was a pseudonym that had been used in court to protect the woman's identity. 

Mr Majitha conceded that when he was first introduced to the woman she gave him her real first name; but said that whenever they communicated in the months following their first meeting to discuss the possibility of further stories the woman used a pseudonym of her choosing. 

He said this led him to believe her pseudonym was her real name, and that when he heard her being referred to by a different name in court he '˜wrongly assumed' that it was not her real name. 

'I got confused between her pseudonym and her real name,' he said. 

He said that while he had worked at the BBC since 2008, he had only worked as a reporter for a year at the time of the alleged offending and had never previously reported on court.

Ansari, of BBC Portland Place, London was Mr Majitha'˜s line manager at the time of the alleged offending.

Mr Majitha told the court he sent the script used during the broadcast in question, which included the woman's full name, had been approved by Ansari, prior to him going on air. 

He said he informed Ansari he had never reported on court proceedings before in a phone call a number of hours prior to the news bulletin in question. 

This was contested by Ansari's barrister, Trevor Burke QC, who said it was the defence's case that Mr Majithia only mentioned this to Ansari after he had inadvertently named the woman. 

'As per my witness statement, which I wrote closer to the time, I described it in my phone call in the afternoon [prior to the broadcast],' said Mr Majithia. 

In his police statement, Ansari said protecting the identity of the victims of sex offences is a '˜basic' aspect of reporting. 

'We're all so aware of it, Mr Majithia included, that I think that's why it didn't ring any alarm bells,' he said, adding that he had no reason to question the pseudonym used in Mr Majithia's script. 

Mr Burke made an application for the case to be dismissed on the basis that Mr Majithia had mispronounced the woman's name during the news bulletin, and had also '˜explicitly and unequivocally' stated it was a pseudonym, concluding this would not lead members of the public to '˜make the connection' between the name used in the bulletin and the rape victim. 

This was rejected by District Judge, Naomi Redhouse, who ruled Ansari did '˜have a case to answer to'. 

Ansari denies the charge. 

The trial continues.