BBC presenter scandal: MPs threaten to use parliamentary privilege to name person in House of Commons
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Several lawmakers have threatened to reveal the identity of the BBC presenter embroiled in the sex scandal with a young person, as pressure mounts on the network to identify the host who allegedly paid a significant sum of money in exchange for sexually explicit pictures.
MPs have reportedly suggested they could step in and identify the presenter, who is said to be a "household name" and command a "six-figure salary," after a number of staff were forced to deny it was them as rumours and speculation spread on social media.
The Sun, in its initial exclusive report revealed the presenter had paid the young person over £35,000 for the pictures since they were 17. According to the mum who was interviewed by the paper, the payments, which were sent over the period of three years, were used to fund her child’s cocaine addiction.
However, the story took a turn when the young person, now aged 20, broke their silence and denied the reports, claiming through a lawyer in a legal letter sent to the BBC that they are “rubbish” and “nothing inappropriate” or “unlawful” has taken place.
The young person’s mother and stepfather then spoke with the paper in an updated interview, claiming they have a damning dossier of evidence including bank transactions, screenshots of messages between the pair and even held a one-hour briefing with the BBC.
The BBC suspended the star on Sunday and took him off air while an investigation took place, but has refused to name him so far. And now, MPs have been talking about using parliamentary privilege to put an end to the speculation by identifying the BBC star in the Commons.
The rife speculation forced a number of BBC presenters took to social media to deny they are the star in question. They include former Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two star Rylan Clark, BBC Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine, BBC sports broadcaster Gary Lineker and BBC Radio 5 Live host, Nicky Campbell.
A former Cabinet minister told Daily Mail: “There is a discussion going on about whether to name this individual. Parliamentary privilege has been used before to identify people who have tried to use injunctions to keep their names out of the Press.
‘”The circumstances here are slightly different, but the issues are the same – do we have free speech in this country, or do we just accept a creeping privacy law made by judges, which parliament has never approved?”
It is also reported that the BBC star has hired specialist privacy and media lawyers at Harbottle & Lewis - the same firm used by the Royal Family - in a bid to keep his reputation and get his job back.
In the legal letter sent to the BBC, the young person said via a lawyer: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality and the allegations reported in The Sun newspaper are rubbish”. The lawyer also claimed that the parents and their client have an ‘estranged’ relationship.
If the presenter obtained sexually explicit images of the young person when they were under 18 years old, that is a matter for investigation as a possible criminal offence. The age of consent is 16, but a person under the age of 18 is not an adult.
The Protection of Children Act 1978 says they cannot consent to taking part in "indecent photographs". The Metropolitan Police is "assessing" information from the BBC over the allegations made against the presenter but has said there is currently no investigation.
The Sun originally reported on the host’s alleged payments amounting to over £35,000, with a lump sum of £5,000 at one time to the young person in exchange for sexualized images since they were 17, with the mother claiming the funds were used to sustain her child’s cocaine addiction.
The second report describes the host as being alleged to have ‘stripped down to his underwear’ during a video call with the young person. Meanwhile, the third report details claims the host made two ‘panicked calls’ to the young person, now aged 20, during which he is alleged to have demanded the mum stop the investigation against him.
What is parliamentary privilege?
According to the UK Parliament website, parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities for Members of both Houses to allow them to perform their duties without interference from outside of the House.
Parliamentary privilege includes freedom of speech and the right of both Houses to regulate their own affairs.
It basically allows MPs to speak freely in the Commons chamber without being governed by slander laws. The media are also allowed to report what is said in the chamber under the protection of qualified privilege.