Jeremy Clarkson is facing a possible criminal investigation after police asked to see the findings of the BBC’s report into his assault of a Top Gear producer. The 54-year-old presenter was sacked yesterday (Wednesday) after the Corporation concluded that he launched an unprovoked physical attack on Oisin Tymon.
According to the report, Mr Tymon was subjected to a 30-second physical attack at the Simonstone Hotel in Hawes, North Yorkshire, which left him with a split lip and ended only when a witness intervened. Mr Tymon “offered no retaliation“, the BBC said. Afterwards, he drove himself to the Accident and Emergency department of a nearby hospital for examination. He did not make a complaint to police at the time and Clarkson later reported himself to BBC management over the incident.
But police have now confirmed they are looking into the matter. A spokesman said: “North Yorkshire Police is liaising with the BBC regarding the alleged incident involving Jeremy Clarkson. “We have asked the BBC for the report which details the findings of their internal investigation into the matter.The information will be assessed appropriately and action will be taken by North Yorkshire Police where necessary.”
New details of the incident were made public yesterday by Lord Hall, the director-general of the BBC, following the conclusion of the inquiry by a Corporation executive, Ken McQuarrie. Furious at being offered a plate of cold cuts on his late-night arrival at the hotel rather than a sirloin steak, Clarkson took out his anger on Mr Tymon, a “completely innocent party“.
He confronted the producer on the patio and subjected him to a vicious verbal assault containing “the strongest expletives” and repeated threats to sack him. “The abuse was at such a volume as to be heard in the dining room, and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom,” the report noted. Clarkson then struck Mr Tymon in a 30-second physical attack only halted by the intervention of a witness, thought to be one of his co-presenters, James May or Richard Hammond. He then followed Mr Tymon into the hotel and continued to use “derogatory and abusive language, relating to Oisin Tymon and other members of the Top Gear team” in front of shocked hotel guests. The tirade lasted 20 minutes.
Mr Tymon believed that Clarkson had the power to sack him and was terrified of losing his job, the report said. Lord Hall announced that he had sacked the presenter “with great regret“. He said “a line had been crossed” and Clarkson’s status as one of the Corporation’s biggest names could not be taken into account. “The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price,” he said. “Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion.”
He went on: “There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.” Saying he knew “how popular the programme is“, Lord Hall admitted that the decision to sack Clarkson would divide opinion. He added: “Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. “This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson as made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. “Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.”
David Cameron, who counts Clarkson as a friend and had earlier expressed hopes that he would be saved, accepted the decision after details of the assault were laid bare in the report. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Aggressive and abusive behaviour isn’t acceptable in the workplace or elsewhere. Obviously the BBC has undertaken its investigation and it has reached its decision and Jeremy Clarkson has to face the consequences of that.” Lord Hall insisted that Top Gear would return next year but admitted: “This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise.” The scale of that challenge became apparent when James May indicated he and Richard Hammond might walk away from the show out of solidarity with Clarkson.
May described Clarkson’s sacking as “a tragedy” and said his future involvement in the programme required “thought, deliberation and conversation between many people“. Asked if he would stay with the programme, May replied: “I don’t want to talk about that too much but I think we are very much, the three of us, a package. “It works for very complicated reasons that a lot of people don’t fully understand.” May said the BBC’s decision to sack Clarkson was “probably within the law and their hands are tied“. But he believes the incident has been blown out of proportion. “I’m sorry that what ought to have been a small incident, sorted out early, turned into something bigger,” he said.
Clarkson remained uncharacteristically quiet in the hours after the announcement. However, he updated his Twitter profile to read “I used to be a presenter on the BBC2 motoring show, Top Gear“. The BBC has also been asked to investigate possible racial undertones to the incident. Clarkson is said to have called Mr Tymon a “lazy Irish c — -” during his tirade. Jim Curran, the chairman of the Irish Civil Rights Association, said: “If this had been a Jewish person or a black or Asian person who had been subjected to this level of abuse then quite rightly it would be being looked at as a potentially racially aggravated matter.”
In a statement, Mr Tymon described the situation as “regrettable” and said: “I’ve worked on Top Gear for almost a decade, a programme I love. Over that time Jeremy and I had a positive and successful working relationship, making some landmark projects together. “He is a unique talent and I am well aware that many will be sorry his involvement in the show should end in this way.” Lord Hall had stuck by Clarkson through previous controversies, including a trip to Argentina which sparked a diplomatic incident when the presenter drove a car with the numberplate H982 FKL — interpreted as a taunting reference to the Falklands conflict. A convoy of cars for the show was attacked by an angry mob.
Clarkson was forced to apologise for calling Gordon Brown “a one-eyed idiot“, while the BBC had to say sorry when the presenter joked on air that striking public sector workers should be “executed in front of their families“. But two alleged racist incidents pushed Clarkson into more dangerous territory. He was reprimanded by Ofcom for referring to an Asian man as a “slope” and received a final warning last year when a leaked Top Gear out-take showed him using the N-word.
The attack on Mr Tymon was the final straw, and despite a public outcry — more than one million fans signed a petition to reinstate him — Lord Hall took decisive action. The sacking could have a disastrous effect on the BBC’s profits. The show has a global audience of 350 million and made more than £150 million last year for the Corporation’s commercial arm. Although Clarkson sold the programme rights to the BBC, there is nothing to stop him joining forces with May and Hammond on another channel and hoping the Top Gear fanbase follows him.
He is tipped to move to ITV, although a spokesman for the channel said it would not comment on “a BBC issue“. City analysts Liberum say that airing a “Clarkson-fronted motor show” would increase ITV’s audience share, its advertising revenue and its worldwide sales.
–By Martin Evans and Anita Singh in London