Editor puts spotlight on BBC in banned boys row

Qualtrough said Spotlight’s story was plagiarised from the Herald

Furious Plymouth Evening Herald editor Alan Qualtrough has slated a BBC regional programme which suggested two teenagers had run away from home after his paper named them in a court case.

In a special comment column setting out what happened when the brothers were given anti-social behaviour orders – headlined "Evening Herald names and shames BBC News Spotlight" – Qualtrough asked: "Where was the BBC during the court proceedings, when the Evening Herald made its application to lift reporting restrictions on identifying Darren [14] and Ashleigh [17] Carter-Moore?

"No BBC reporter was there – it had missed the story. Its lunchtime report was no more than a plagiarised version of the Evening Herald’s front page. And that was why it got it wrong.

"Contrary to the BBC Spotlight report, the boys went missing on the second day of the scheduled five-day hearing, not after its conclusion. In other words, the boys put two fingers up to the law and the fact that they went on the run is not connected to their naming.

"And the BBC website report contains a serious legal blunder that no trained Evening Herald reporter would commit."

Qualtrough told Press Gazette the Evening Herald was supporting Plymouth City Council in its attempts to deal with anti-social behaviour in the city. The Carter-Moores had terrorised their neighbourhood for a number of years, he said.

"That afternoon, the brothers’ sister rang our newsdesk and said she was so ashamed by their behaviour that she would speak to us and supplied their pictures," he stated, adding: "We splashed the story and obviously caught the BBC on the back foot."

Spotlight ran a piece to camera at lunchtime in which the reporter read from the Herald’s front page, but Spotlight would not name the boys and implied it was wrong to do so. The reporter announced a studio panel during the evening bulletin would discuss whether it was right.

Spotlight did not contact Plymouth City Council nor the Herald to comment. Instead, Qualtrough claimed, it  had "a so-called expert" who said that naming the boys was wrong. Qualtrough said he thought the programme was biased and unbalanced and didn’t reach the professional standard required of the BBC.

"Spotlight scored a further own goal by opening a viewers’ panel on its website to invite comments and every entry criticised it for not naming the boys," he added.

Spotlight’s spokesman said: "This is a major local story – reflected in its position at the top of many of our bulletins – and we have provided full discussion and analysis of the wider issues involved.

"The Evening Herald makes its own editorial policy and we make ours. Although legally we were able to name the boys, due to the age of one of the brothers involved, we took an editorial decision not to do so."

By Jean Morgan

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