Chana Hughes

What Judaism teaches about the Huw Edwards saga

The 61-year-old was identified by his wife, Vicky Flind, as the presenter at the centre of sex images controversy


BBC newsreader Huw Edwards speaks during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Methodist Central Hall in London on January 27, 2020. Holocaust Memorial Day takes place each year on the 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and honours survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

July 14, 2023 11:02

The Huw Edwards episode, which is still unfolding, holds a crucial and timely message: to safeguard young people and the vulnerable in our community.

If the mother of the young person alleged to have been paid by the BBC presenter for photos was telling the truth - and we await the full facts - she was perhaps no more than a desperate parent whose voice was being ignored while she watched her son deteriorate before her eyes. 

This in itself raises the question of how we pay attention and respond to those who make allegations. Particularly when the allegations are about those who we trust, respect or even love. 

Although there was no criminality in this case, the themes of whistleblowing can be applied to cases of alleged abuse. In most abuse cases the perpetrator is a family member or a close friend; somebody who is loved or even admired by those around them. 

This makes disclosures scary, complicated and sometimes horrifically painful. Sometimes relationships are deeply ruptured when having to investigate an allegation. It is incredibly difficult and risky, but it is the price we have to pay to safeguard our most vulnerable. 

There is a Jewish law regarding the complexities of lashon hora - gossip. Somebody may need to share negative information about a person to protect them - for example, suggesting that their prospective business partner is dishonest or might deceive them. In those cases, there is a dilemma. Negative speech or slander is forbidden. 

But is someone expected to lay themselves open to being harmed or deceived for the sake of avoiding gossip? 

One suggestion is to make a distinction between your practical response and your inner judgments. You can hear the warning and do everything you can to act upon it and protect yourself from harm. But until the events are independently corroborated, you can still suspend your internal judgement of the alleged perpetrator and give them the benefit of the doubt.

A sensitive and thoughtful response to a complex situation, but one which works hard to behave appropriately from all angles.

This is a complicated and difficult case. After initial allegations were made to The Sun, the media was unable to name the presenter due to privacy and defamation laws. But tremendous pressure via social media has meant that Edwards was identified by his wife as the presenter in question. 

It was then revealed that the stress of the allegations has induced a significant mental health episode and Edwards has been hospitalised for the foreseeable future. Police have since clarified that no criminal activity was involved. 

The BBC now has to balance their duty of care for their employee, who is currently not well enough to respond to questioning, and their duty to investigate potentially serious allegations.

Perhaps, as a result of this, we will find a way to remind our communities to be more cautious before spreading rumours and remembering that lives can be destroyed with a single suspicion. We also need more regulation around social media and people need to be held accountable when making slanderous comments.

But there is a more tangible lesson to draw. With summer coming and teenagers going off to camps and trips there is always going to be an added level of risk for our children. People who are in positions of authority naturally hold disproportionate power over children, especially children who are less confident or struggling in some way. There are also many unhealthy behaviours from which we need to protect our children that don’t cross the threshold of criminality. 

Let’s take a constructive message from this difficult episode and be extra vigilant to protect those around us from abuse and exploitation.

July 14, 2023 11:02

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