BBC show on anti-terror raids breached guidelines

A BBC Inside Out programme on the effect of anti-terror raids on communities in the West Midlands breached accuracy guidelines and wasn’t sufficiently impartial, the BBC Trust has ruled.

A viewer wrote to the BBC’s editorial complaints unit protesting that the programme broadcast on 7 December in the West Midlands was biased against the police.

The regional current affairs show featured a report on raids made by hundreds of police officers across homes, businesses, an internet café and two Islamic bookshops in Birmingham in 2007 as part of Operation Gamble.

The operation was in connection with a conspiracy by Islamic extremists to kidnap and behead a Muslim British soldier. However, the complainant said the programme failed to mention the faith of the intended kidnap victim and that the raids led to several convictions.

BBC Information told the complainant: “Inside Out…chose to look at this case because it had received a huge amount of publicity when it happened, which had caused problems with relations between the police and the Muslim community. Indeed, even the senior officer involved said that they had learnt lessons from it.”

It went on: “…there were still some ongoing legal issues surrounding the case and that’s precisely why we didn’t explicitly say how many were arrested and what had happened to them individually… we felt it was a good illustrative example of the issues we were talking about in the report – such as the effects on those arrested, their families and communities with regard to police relations..”

And added: “…because of time limitations it simply isn’t possible to always mention all the facts but the programme’s editor can certainly see your point of view… that it might have been useful to add some more detail here. However the BBC’s view is that in no way did leaving these facts out bias the film against the police.”

The BBC Trust ruled yesterday that as the programme set out to examine the impact on police/community relations of the enforcement of anti-terror legislation, the omission of the soldier’s faith altered the facts presented by the programme and led to a breach of accuracy guidelines.

At trial a year after the raids a man accused of being the leader of the conspiracy was sentenced to life imprisonment and another was convicted for failing to notify the authorities of the plan.

Three others were convicted on charges which, although terrorist related, were not connected to this particular conspiracy.

The Trust ruled that failure of the programme to mention the outcome of Operation Gamble was significant and that impartiality ‘had not been achieved in a way that was appropriate”.

‘Had the Police been aware when recording interviews for the programme that information regarding the outcome of Operation Gamble and the fact that the target of the kidnap plot was a Muslim soldier would not be included, they might have chosen to respond and present their arguments in a different way,’the Trust ruled.

The Trust also criticised the BBC’s editorial complaints unit for its handling of the complaint, ruling that it was wrong to not consider the issue of the intended kidnap victim’s faith and that it should apologise for the length of time it took to deal with a complaint that was ‘not a particularly complex”.

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