BBC ordered to disclose documents from internal investigations into bullying claims by freelance producer who worked on Spotlight programme

The BBC must disclose documents from internal complaint investigations to a journalist suing over alleged bullying, a High Court judge ruled last night.

The BBC.
The BBC.

Mr Justice McAlinden ordered discovery in favour of Lena Ferguson for her lawsuit against the corporation.

The freelance producer is taking legal action in connection with an alleged incident involving Jeremy Adams, the former head of TV current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland.

Her claim relates to a meeting in March 2019 while working on the BBC’s award-winning current affairs programme Spotlight.

She alleges that during discussions Mr Adams subjected her to an “outburst of uncontrollable rage”, the court heard.

Ms Ferguson was so shaken and humiliated that she had to leave the building, according to her case.

That version of events is categorically disputed by Mr Adams, who has since left the corporation under voluntary redundancy arrangements.

An internal inquiry concluded that Ms Ferguson’s bullying and harassment allegations were not upheld.

The same outcome was reached in investigations into complaints by some other members of staff.

With Ms Ferguson claiming a breach in the duty of care, she sought discovery of documents on those internal investigation processes as part of her legal action.

Counsel for BBC Northern Ireland, Martin Wolfe QC, argued that the requested material is highly sensitive.

He also told the court the material relates to confidential processes which are not relevant to the case.

“What we are dealing with here is unsubstantiated allegations,” he insisted.

But Patrick Lyttle QC, for Ms Ferguson, argued that the investigation reports are required to determine if the alleged bullying at the March 2019 meeting was part of an established pattern of behaviour.

“If this person has acted in this fashion, lost his temper, shouted and roared, acted in such an aggressive fashion and if there is evidence to show he did it in the past, that is relevant information to go before the court in reaching a decision on the balance of probabilities,” he submitted to the court.

Granting discovery with any necessary redaction, Mr Justice McAlinden held that the relevant legal tests had been met in the matter.

He confirmed: “The documentation sought are both relevant and necessary to enable a fair trial to be conducted in this case.”