A BBC editor was hired as an expert witness to help at least 15 Somalian criminals fight deportation and remain in the UK, it has emerged.
Mary Harper, Africa editor for the BBC’s World Service, was paid to give expert evidence for Yaqub Ahmed, a Somali gang rapist, during his five-year legal battle to remain in the UK. He was deported in November.
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has also found that she gave expert witness evidence in a series of other controversial deportation appeals by Somali offenders, including three other sex attackers, three drug dealers and a career criminal who spent a decade in British jails.
In one case, she reportedly cautioned that the criminal’s repeated history of offending in the UK – 39 convictions for 80 crimes over a period of 17 years – would result in him being shunned by his clan if he was returned to Somalia.
In another, it was reported that Ms Harper warned that a 29-year-old Somali man who sexually assaulted a deaf girl aged 17 would be at “severely heightened risk” if he was sent back to Somalia because he had committed a sex crime.
His appeal against deportation was thrown out by a judge who disagreed with her argument. The newspaper said some 16 months later, the attacker – whom it is prevented by law from identifying – remains in the UK and has been living in a council flat with his family.
The BBC has since announced that Ms Harper was leaving the organisation. It is understood that she will depart later this month and that her most recent role at the corporation was as a journalist reporter. It remains unclear whether she quit or was sacked.
The details emerged as a refugee suspected of carrying out a chemical attack that left a mother and child injured was twice denied asylum before being allowed to stay in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity.
Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, 35, who is at the centre of a nationwide manhunt, arrived illegally in the country in the back of a lorry in 2016, claimed his life would be in danger if he was returned to his native Afghanistan.
In 2018, he was convicted of a sex offence. It is understood that he was twice refused asylum but granted leave to remain in 2021 or 2022 after a priest vouched for his conversion, arguing that he was “wholly committed” to his new religion.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Foreign national offenders have no right to be in the UK, which is why we are deporting them and banning their return to the UK.
“Over 16,000 Foreign national offenders have been removed since January 2019. Through both our Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Act, we are also ensuring they cannot frustrate the removal process.”
A BBC spokesman said: “While there is nothing in the BBC’s rules that prevent staff acting as expert witnesses, the BBC has clear processes in place to ensure any external work of this nature has prior approval. We are unable to comment on the specific details of this particular case and, more broadly, do not comment on individual staff matters.”
Ms Harper did not respond to a request for comment.