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Tory MP eviscerates Tim Davie over ‘mind-boggling’ response to £1m ‘gang rapist’ deportation case


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A Conservative MP has eviscerated Tim Davie’s response to her letter which demanded answers after the broadcaster’s Africa Editor Mary Harper was called as an expert witness in Yaqub Ahmed’s deportation case.

Ahmed, 34, was jailed in 2008 for attacking a teenage girl after she was lured from Leicester Square to a flat in Crouch End.

He was eventually stripped of his refugee status in 2015 and deported in August last year following a lengthy legal battle which cost up to £1million.

Harper was hired by Ahmed’s London lawyers to give evidence in 2021 and allegedly told judges at a first-tier immigration tribunal that the convicted gang rapist could be targeted by terrorist group al-Shabaab.

Rachel Maclean has sent another letter to Tim Davie over Mary Harper's involvement in Yaqub Ahmed's deportation case

Rachel Maclean has sent another letter to Tim Davie over Mary Harper’s involvement in Yaqub Ahmed’s deportation case


The BBC’s Africa Editor supposedly suggested that Home Office plans to fly Ahmed to Mogadishu on a charter flight and put him up in a safe hotel would wrongly mark him out as a spy.

Harper provided a written report and stood in for cross-examination at the tribunal.

Expert witnesses can receive up to £2,500 per report in legal-aid funded cases, with an additional £800 a day available for in-person appearances.

Redditch MP Rachel Maclean, who was appointed as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party after serving as Housing Minister, labelled the Director-General’s comments “mind-boggling”.

Maclean first raised her concerns with Davie about the situation on November 21, sharing with GB News her initial letter to Broadcasting House.

The 58-year-old appeared to question whether Harper’s decision to appear as an expert witness was in breach of the BBC’s impartiality guidelines.



Maclean also asked whether Harper was paid for her court appearance and how many other BBC employees have appeared as expert witnesses in court cases in the last year.

In a letter shared with GB News today, Davie wrote: “As in the case with any allegations of bias and conflicts of interest I can assure you that we are taking this extremely seriously.

“I hope you can appreciate that it would not be appropriate however for me to comment on the specific details of an internal staff affair.

“I asked our HR team to look into your query about how many times BBC employees have appeared as an expert witness in the past year.

“The BBC does not hold this information in the form you have requested. However, they have confirmed that in terms of the central BBC files, from the search they have undertaken, no record has been found of a BBC employee requesting to be an expert witness in court in the past year.”

However, Maclean was far from convinced by Davie’s response.

An image of BBC Broadcasting HouseAn image of BBC Broadcasting HousePA

The Redditch MP wrote: “I’m afraid I don’t accept that this is an internal staff matter. The person Ms Harper was defending was a convicted gang rapist and she appeared in the appeals that help keep him in this country for longer.

“I will reiterate what I said in my last letter. The cost to the taxpayer was over £1million in legal, prison, and deportation costs. Given this was not a cost borne by the BBC, how can this be considered an internal matter?

“You have also not adequately addressed my question about how this fits within the BBC’s impartiality guidelines. How can it be that appearing as an expert witness in court – when even the judges reportedly raised concerns about the objectivity of her evidence – meets the impartiality guidelines of the BBC?”

Maclean also told GB News: “A mind-boggling response from the Director-General which didn’t answer any of my questions.

“It just can’t be right that a BBC employee, a journalist we rely on to be impartial, was an expert witness in a case which prevented the deportation of a convicted gang rapist.

“This sorry saga does nothing to improve confidence in the BBC but the Director-General could certainly start by answering my further questions.”

Mary HarperMary HarperMARY HARPER

The BBC previously rejected the suggestion that staff should not be able to act as expert witnesses.

A spokesperson said: “There is nothing in the BBC’s editorial guidelines that prevent staff acting as expert witnesses who are required to be objective and impartial in their evidence.”

A previous deportation flight involving Ahmed was halted after virtue-signalling holidaymakers, unaware of his crime, demanded he be taken off a Turkish Airlines flight at Heathrow.

A three-minute clip showed passengers applauding as a four-strong Home Office team frogmarched him off the plane, with one holidaymaker shouting: “You’re free, man!”

Six successive Home Secretaries had attempted to remove Ahmed from the UK but numerous legal challenges prevented his deportation.

Tim Davie, new Director General of the BBC, arrives at BBC Scotland in Glasgow for his first day in the roleTim Davie, new Director General of the BBC, arrives at BBC Scotland in Glasgow for his first day in the rolePA

The impartiality row comes as Broadcasting House comes under increasing scrutiny in recent months.

Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has been facing calls to quit after making recent outbursts about the Conservative Party Government and sharing a post calling for Israel to be excluded from international sporting events.

The broadcaster also had a problematic few months after it was forced to back-peddle on its description of Hamas.

BBC journalists previously described the proscribed terrorist organisation as “militants”.

Confidence in the BBC has also collapsed in recent years from 81 per cent in 2003 to just 47 per cent in 2023, data compiled by YouGov has revealed.

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