Looking back at the Huw Edwards debacle

Judith Thompson  04-09-2023

Nothing has been heard of Huw Edwards for some time, since the national guessing game about the "unnamed BBC presented" ended on 12 July 2023.

In her statement regarding her husband, Vicky Flind described “five extremely difficult days” and made reference to her husband's “serious mental health issues”.

Her statement came after allegations published about a mystery BBC presenter in The Sun newspaper on 7 July. 2023 The presenter was accused of paying a 17-year-old child tens of thousands of pounds for explicit photos over three years, and despite claims from the child that the allegations reported by The Sun were "rubbish”,  there was an implication that Edwards could be held to account for sexual exploitation of a child – an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Questions were raised as to why the presenter remained anonymous for so long, although looking back, it was just five days. The mainstream and social media was so intense that allegations and implications changed from minute to minute, and hour to hour. Several entirely innocent and high profile BBC presenters were named as being the presenter in question which in itself has led to satellite claims for defamation. 

The reason Huw Edwards was not named straight away can be found in the muddied waters of Britain’s privacy laws. Since Tony Blair’s government enacted the Human Rights Act in 1998, various protections have been available, inevitably and largely however to those who have been able to afford it.

In 2018, Cliff Richard successfully sued the BBC for breach of his privacy after they filmed a police raid on the singer's home, whilst he was wholly innocent of any crime. Arguably, since that expensive and damaging case, the BBC and the wider media have been more cautious about how cases involving celebrities are reported. This was reinforced in the somewhat politicised Supreme court’s decision to rule that people under criminal investigation should have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

On the one hand, protecting the anonymity of the presenter, allowed the BBC to avoid another privacy scandal, but all the while, potentially opening the company and its presenters up to libel from the general public.

The uncertainty of the law causes businesses like the BBC to tiptoe around cases like Edwards, causing potential damage to innocent parties who are caught up in the inevitable speculation. What is clear, is that this uncertainty needs to be clarified by Parliament, in order to achieve a just balance between freedom of expression and a right to privacy.

If your privacy has been breached, if you have been unfairly labelled a criminal, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. Contact us today to speak to one of our expert reputation management lawyers about how we can help. 

Article credit: Kaia Read

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