BBC Broadcasting House in London, England on 10 July 2023.
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LONDON – BBC reporter Huw Edwards has been named as the TV presenter accused by his wife of paying a teenager more than £35,000 (about $45,430) in exchange for sexually suggestive photographs.
The payments allegedly started when her child was 17 – they are now in their 20s, The Sun newspaper reported last week, citing the alleged victim’s mother.
After a tumultuous five days for the British broadcaster, the wife of the previously unnamed TV presenter made a statement to the PA news agency.
“I am making this statement on behalf of my husband Huw Edwards after an extremely difficult five days for our family in light of the recent BBC News report,” Vicky Flind said.
“I am doing this primarily for his mental wellbeing and to protect our children… Huw suffers from serious mental health issues. As is well documented, he has been treated for severe depression in recent years.”
She added that her husband, Edward, “had another serious episode and is currently being treated in an inpatient hospital.”
“Once he’s well enough to do that, he’s going to respond to published stories,” Flind said.
The story developed earlier this week, when the BBC reported that the young man’s lawyer had contacted him and said the allegations made by the latter’s mother were “rubbish” and that “nothing inappropriate or illegal happened”.
If the allegation was true, a crime could have been committed. This is because the law deals with indecent images for children under 18, while the age of consent in England and Wales is 16.
In a follow-up to its original report, The Sun’s wording was changed to read: “The relationship between the two is understood to have started when the young man was 17.”
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before Edwards was named by his wife, London’s Metropolitan Police were reported to have concluded there was “no evidence to suggest that a criminal offence” had been committed.
In a statement sent to CNBC on Thursday, a spokesperson for The Sun said it would “cooperate with the BBC’s internal investigation process” and had “no plans to publish any further allegations”.
“We must also reiterate that The Sun made no criminal allegations at any point in our original story and also chose not to name Mr Edwards or the young man involved in the allegations,” they said.
“Suggestions about possible crimes were first made by other media outlets, including the BBC.”
The BBC’s Huw Edwards
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A spokesman said the newspaper had initially “reported a story about two very concerned and frustrated parents who complained to the BBC about the behavior of a presenter and his payments, which had led to a young man’s drug addiction”.
“We reported that the parents had already gone to the police and they said they couldn’t help. The parents then complained to the BBC but no action was taken. Now the BBC has a proper investigation.”
A timeline of key developments
When contacted for comment, the BBC directed CNBC to a timeline of events on its website.
In response to the complainant’s contact with BBC Audience Services on 19 May, the BBC says that its Corporate Investigations Team “assessed that the information provided did not constitute a criminal allegation, but nevertheless merited further investigation.” “
The BBC said it tried to contact the complainant in May and June but did not receive a response.
The Sun then approached the broadcaster on July 6. According to the BBC, the newspaper’s claims “contain new allegations” and the TV presenter was aware of them.
The BBC contacted the complainant and the police on July 7, and the presenter’s suspension was confirmed on July 9.
Speculation and the law
The news led to intense speculation on social media about who the presenter was, resulting in a number of high-profile BBC stars publicly distancing themselves from the allegations.
Along with the seriousness of the allegations, there are potentially serious consequences when it comes to defamation and privacy laws.
“Anyone who publishes allegations about BBC presenters whose names are linked to these allegations are personally liable for these posts,” Matthew Gill, senior associate and media disputes lawyer London-based law firm Howard Kennedy told CNBC.
“And if these posts were to damage the reputation of BBC presenters and the allegations were found to be untrue – either to the presenter at the center of it, or to others unrelated to him – the person who tweeted those tweets, or those who posted those posts on social media… with legal action. they can face”, he added.
They also, Gill explained, “may be ordered to pay substantial damages and costs.”
“The reality now is that once a person tweets a celebrity’s name online about these allegations, they are unlikely to face legal action,” he said. That’s because “frankly, a lot of people have been posting these kinds of claims online over the past few days.”
“However, celebrities who are unrelated to these claims but who have an online connection, for example, may want to consider filing a lawsuit against the first people to mention their names online,” Gill said.
They may also take action “against people who decide to mount a campaign that attempts to link false leads to these claims.”