Prosecution dropped against undercover reporter

The Procurator Fiscal has dropped the case against a BBC journalist who was arrested after an undercover investigation into a firm which offered at-home care for the elderly.

Strathclyde Police detained Arifa Farooq on August 5 when she voluntarily attended an interview at Maryhill Police Station in Glasgow in connection with a complaint that she got a job with Domiciliary Care (Scotland) – the subject of the expose – by using her sister’s name.

A spokesman for the Procurator Fiscal said today: “A police report was received by the Area Procurator Fiscal at Glasgow. The circumstances have been considered and there will be no criminal proceedings”.

Farooq’s undercover work featured in a BBC Panorama programme which showed that carers working for Domiciliary Care, the company which the contract to provide at-home care in south Lanarkshire, were on the minimum wage and often had had little training.

The programme, broadcast in April, also found evidence that elderly clients were promised visits which never took place, and that visits supposed to last 30 minutes could be cut to as little as three minutes as staff rushed to their next appointments.

It prompted the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee to launch an investigation into the use of “reverse e-auctions” to procure contractors.

Farooq was arrested in connection with a complaint under section 123 of the Police Act 1997, which deals with offences connected with falsifying or making false statements relating to criminal conviction and criminal record certificates. A conviction on summary trial is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of GBP5,000 or both.

National Union of Journalists Vice-President Pete Murray, and deputy father of the BBC Scotland chapel, said: “It is an enormous relief for Arifa and her friends and family that the procurator has decided not to take this case forward. Arifa deserved praise for what she did not persecution.

“The Panorama programme was a classic example of investigative journalism at its best. It is important that journalists are able to go undercover when a story they are investigating is serious enough to warrant it.”

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said: “This is a victory for media freedom. Congratulations to Arifa and her NUJ colleagues in Scotland who have been lobbying hard to stop this prosecution.

“The union will continue to stand up for journalists who face persecution for doing their jobs well and who uphold the values of public interest journalism.”

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