A Cabinet minister has suggested the BBC presenter who has been suspended for allegedly paying for sexually explicit images of a teenager should only be named once a “full” investigation has taken place.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk agreed there was a “public interest” in the broadcaster being named but said it would not be appropriate to name the accused “immediately” or until a “full investigation” had taken place.
The BBC has been rocked by allegations that one of its presenters – reportedly a “household name” – paid a 17-year-old thousands of pounds for sexually explicit images.
The presenter -who has since been suspended – reportedly paid £35,000 for the photographs, which the mother has claimed was spent on funding the now 20-year-old’s drug habit.
In a statement on Sunday, the BBC said the presenter had been suspended after it had received new allegations of a different nature in addition to their own enquiries.
It has also now been in touch with external authorities, the corporation said.
Mr Chalk described the allegations as “very serious and very concerning”.
Asked whether there was a public interest for the broadcaster to be named, Mr Chalk told Sky News: “This is quite a difficult, nuanced legal issue. I’m not going to criticise them at this stage because it will depend on all sorts of things.
“So, for example, if an allegation were made against you and it was of an extremely serious nature, then I don’t think it would necessarily be appropriate to name you immediately until there had been a full investigation.”
He added: “And that is why, if I may say so, it is really important that time is of the essence because there is a public interest in this, I accept that.
“But equally there is a public interest in ensuring that people aren’t defamed as well.
“So it is a matter of fact and degree. Not every single immediate allegation would need to lead to that person being unmasked, so to speak.
“But the process does need to continue so there is sufficient detail in that investigation to potentially justify that important step.
“Once the allegation is publicly made and that individual is unmasked, the consequences can be very serious, to say nothing of the potential legal knock-on implications.”