...and Safe for Truth


9th April 2020

Texts of BBC complaint and reply

My complaint of 2nd December 2019

While interviewing the Justice Secretary on the Today programme this morning (2nd December) the presenter suggested the government should use retrospective legislation and then shouted the minister down when he tried to explain why retrospective legislation is a bad idea.

Retrospective legislation strikes at the heart of a free democracy by potentially criminalising every citizen in future for something innocent they do today or have done in the past. As such it would be a direct threat to several basic human rights and could have no place in a civilised society.

Anyone who uses a platform as a representative of the BBC to recommend it while silencing the contrary viewpoint is a danger to freedom and the values of a fair society and should not be given the privilege of misusing their position in this way.

The BBC’s reply on 5th April 2020

Dear Mr Petrie,

Thanks for getting back in touch with your request for a response to your complaint regarding BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ broadcast on 2 December 2019.

Please accept our apologies for the long delay in replying and for any inconvenience caused.

You raised concerns about Nick Robinson’s approach when questioning Justice Secretary Robert Buckland about the use of retrospective legislation.

Mr Buckland appeared on the programme to discuss the London Bridge attack and was questioned about the early release of the attacker, Usman Khan. He raised the point that the Conservative government had amended legislation which was introduced by Labour and had allowed automatic early release.

Nick’s role as a BBC interviewer is to ask the questions which are likely to be in the minds of our listeners. He therefore challenged Mr Buckland’s point by highlighting that the changes made by the Conservative Party had not had any impact on Usman Khan’s case and raised the point that the government has the power to use retrospective legislation.

Nick acknowledged that using retrospective legislation is a serious step, but also raised the point that if there is a high terror threat then such measures may be appropriate. While Nick did interrupt Mr Buckland to clarify his point, he did then allow the justice secretary to respond to the question in detail and without interruption.

We can assure you that Nick was not encouraging or promoting the use of retrospective legislation but was simply ensuring that his guest’s views were appropriately challenged. That said, we appreciate you felt his line of questioning was inappropriate and we thank you for raising your concerns with us as audience reaction can help inform our ongoing work.

With that in mind, please rest assured your complaint was shared with the ‘Today’ team and senior management on our audience feedback report at the time it was submitted.

Many thanks once again for contacting us.

Kind regards,

Janine McMeekin

BBC Complaints Team