Well, it took over a year, but we’re extremely pleased to announce that the BBC has finally backed down and reported on the case of Jay Cheshire, a story we’ve been demanding they report since October 2015. Jay was a 17 year old boy from Southampton who was falsely accused of rape. His accuser withdrew the allegation after two weeks, but the damage had already been done and Jay sadly took his own life.
Jay’s death was first reported in July 2015 in the local press and the case hit the national headlines in October 2015 once the full facts of the case emerged. The story was reported by every national paper bar the Guardian and it was quite astonishing that the BBC took the same stance as that paper and pretended the case didn’t exist. Its sexist bias became all the more extraordinary when the case was contrasted with the BBC’s wall to wall reporting of the suicide of Eleanor De Freias, an event that occurred at almost exactly the same time. De Freitas was of course not a victim of false rape allegation like Jay, but a false rape accuser, whose victim had to fight long and hard and spend vast sums of money to bring to justice. The BBC had seemingly endless sympathy for this criminal featuring the story on their main news page again and again, with headlines that didn’t reflect the truth in the slightest and that we at HEqual forced them to retract. In the eyes of the BBC, adult female perpetrators of false rape allegations are simply of greater value than even child victims of the very same crimes.
The number of missed opportunities for the BBC to report the story is quite frankly astounding. Firstly there was Jay’s suicide itself, which while not notable on a national scale could have been reported by the BBC’s local South news division. They then failed to reported the inquest in October 2015, not only omitting it from the UK section of their website but even ignoring it at the local level. Once the story broke nationally, various opinion columns then later appeared in the weekend’s press featuring wider examinations of the issues raised by Jay’s death, again the BBC didn’t bother to do anything similar on any of its platforms. They could also have reported the case at the time of Jay’s funeral or when the coroner’s verdict was released but again refused.
Exactly a year on from Jay’s suicide, his mother Karin then took her own life, after being left distraught by Jays’ death. Karin even used the very same rope as jay to hang herself, so surely this would finally force the BBC’s hand and they’d have to do their jobs and report the news?
Having complained about the BBC’s bias in ignoring Jay’s suicide in 2015, we took a far more proactive stance in 2016 so they couldn’t pretend to have missed the story. Upon hearing of Karin’s death, we immediately informed all relevant BBC staff about the story, thus preventing them from feigning ignorance once again. We made it absolutely clear that they had no excuse for now not reporting the case and had a clear obligation to do so. Amazingly, despite our intervention they still refused to report the story, even ignoring it in their local BBC South division and instead reporting all manner of trivial stories in preference and missing all possible windows for reporting new developments.
It has taken over a year now but late on Tuesday 18th October the BBC finally acknowledged the existence of Jay Cheshire and his mother and the tragic case and we’re delighted to have finally forced them to report the story. There has been a huge amount of interest in our work to hold the BBC to account, so much so that we’re the number two result in Google when searching for “Jay Cheshire” and the words “BBC” and “Guardian” even appear as auto-complete suggestions when Googling his name.
The BBC’s initial refusal to report on Jay Cheshire even inspired our report into BBC coverage of victims of false rape allegations. This research proved that the BBC had never covered a single case of a victim of false rape allegations who took their own lives in its entire history, so today’s BBC report is in some ways a major breakthrough becasue it’s their first ever acknowledgement of such crimes having fatal consequences.
Regrettably, there are still many deficiencies in the BBC’s reporting. While the report was displayed at the bottom of its news and UK news page, it’s URL and categorisation shows it is still regarded as a mere local news story and not of much real significance nationally (and no thumbnail image is used either). There’s no video in the piece, again suggesting it’s not all that significant and it was published several hours after other outlets broke the story. Finally, the BBC chose to frame/headline the article in the context of problems at Southern Health, an issue which while significant, is hardly at the crux of the tradegy and not an angle used in any other news report at any time.
The entire reason for the report and its main focus is the death of Karin Cheshire and not that of Jay. So, although the BBC might have acknowledged Jay’s suicide, there’s still never been any article specifically about him and 100% of BBC coverage has come about only as a result of his mother’s death. Therefore, it’s still the case that the BBC has never directly reported specifically on a false rape allegation that caused the suicide of its victim. Such cases only become newsworthy to them once there is a female victim and if they can try to pin the blame for the death on some other random cause.
Despite the BBC still failing to give the story quite the prominence and resources it deserves and opting for an unusual/poor headline, the public’s response has been amazing and is obvious for all to see thanks to the BBC website’s handy “most popular” feature. The story quickly rose to the seventh most read article on the entire site and it reached a rank of at least number three shortly after midnight, less than three hours after its publication! This huge demand for the story vindicates absolutely everything we have said to the BBC about the notability and importance of the story and their duty to have reported on it.
Their previous conduct amounts to hiding one of the top stories on one of the world’s top news websites from hundreds of thousands of people, and doing so for over a year! Such staggering interest now essentially forces the BBC to carry out follow up reports and discussions tomorrow morning and we hope they won’t fail viewers yet again by refusing to do so simply becasue the issue highlights the devastating impact impact of false rape allegations, allegations feminist groups like to pretend don’t really exist.
Needless to say the Guardian are still pretending that Jay, his accuser and his mother don’t exist and their lives clearly don’t matter to those at the paper. The only mention of Jay’s name on their site is a comment by a reader rather than an actual news report. Perhaps the BBC report may now finally inspire them to write something about the case and acknowledge that false rape allegations not only exist but can be fatal?, though we’re not hopeful.
We’d like to thank all those who’ve shared our work concerning this campaign, it really does make a difference. If you’re appalled at the BBC’s conduct in this case and appreciate what we do then perhaps considered ditching your TV licence and consider donating to HEqual instead.