The BBC has been caught up in yet another impartiality row after the broadcaster’s Africa Editor Mary Harper was an expert witness in gang rapist Yaqub Ahmed’s deportation case.
A Tory MP has written to the corporation’s director-general Tim Davie demanding answers after Harper was accused of being hired by Wilson Solicitors two-years ago.
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 deported in August following a lengthy legal battle which cost up to £1million.
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Harper was hired by Ahmed’s London lawyers to give evidence in 2021.
She told judges at a first-tier immigration tribunal in West London that Ahmed could be targeted by terrorist group al-Shabaab because it would want to punish him for raping a 16-year-old girl in the UK.
Harper also 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.
Those acting as expert witnesses can be paid up to £2,500 per report in Legal Aid-funded cases.
An additional £800 a day is available if they appear in person.
A copy of Rachel Maclean’s letter to Tim Davie
Harper provided a written report and stood in for cross-examination at the tribunal.
Conservative MP Rachel Maclean heaped pressure on BBC director-general Tim Davie today, arguing the corporation’s guidelines should change following the debacle.
In a letter shared with GB News, the Redditch MP wrote: “As you will be aware, Mr Ahmed is a convicted gang rapist who targeted a helpless teenage victim in a savage attack.
“In 2015, he was stripped of the refugee status afforded to him in 2003 – having come to this country from Somalia – and had a deportation order put on him.
“Efforts to remove this dangerous man from our country were repeatedly frustrated by multiple appeals – one of which featured Ms Harper as an expert witness.”
Maclean, who was sacked as Housing Minister during Rishi Sunak’s recent reshuffle, added: “The British public deserve answers to the following questions:
“Was Ms Harper paid for her appearance in court? If so, how much?
“How many times have BBC employees appeared as expert witnesses in court cases in the last year?
“How does this fit within the BBC’s impartiality guidelines?”
She later told GB News: “The BBC should not allow its staff to be expert witnesses in immigration cases.
“In what sense are they either ‘expert’ or ‘objective’? These guidelines need to be changed.”
The corporation rejected suggestions staff should not be able to act as an expert witness.
A BBC 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.”
Ahmed was eventually deported to Somalia in August following a prolonged state of legal ping-pong.
The 34-year-old’s previous deportation flight was halted after virtue-signalling holidaymakers, unaware of his crime, demanded he was 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 have attempted to remove Ahmed from the UK but legal challenges prevented his deportation.