Jeremy Clarkson’s contract will not be renewed after he physically attacked a Top Gear producer, the BBC has said.
Clarkson had been suspended since 10 March after he was involved in a “fracas”, where he reportedly physically attacked Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon after giving a torrent of verbal abuse. The row, which took place at a Yorkshire hotel on 4 March, was said to have occurred because the production team had not provided any hot food after the day’s shooting.
Clarkson reported the incident to the BBC, which launched an internal investigation into the incident, led by Ken MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland.
In the report, MacQuarrie found that Tymon was subject to an “unprovoked physical and verbal attack” by Clarkson, which left the producer with a swollen and bleeding lip. The physical altercation lasted around 30 seconds before a witness intervened.
BBC director general Tony Hall said he has “not taken the decision this decision lightly” and took no pleasure in making the announcement, which he understood would be divisive.
In a statement, he said:
“It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.
“I am grateful to Ken MacQuarrie for the thorough way he has conducted an investigation of the incident on 4th March. Given the obvious and very genuine public interest in this I am publishing the findings of his report. I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making them public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.”
The decision has been met with support by those that saw the incident as an act of workplace violence and an abuse of power, but more than a million Top Gear fans signed a petition to reinstate Clarkson.
Discussing the decision to axe Clarkson, Glenn Hayes, an employment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said “the BBC did not really have a choice”.
“The suggestion that Jeremy Clarkson allegedly looked to punch one of his producers is very serious and in the workplace would usually be deemed gross misconduct and following a fair disciplinary hearing, would usually result in immediate dismissal without notice.
“Although the BBC had a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures on it to have him ‘re-instated’ prior to his contract not being renewed, the corporation could have made a ‘rod for its own back’ if they put their demands first. This would mean that it could have left itself open to unfair dismissal claims from other staff in the future if they were dismissed in similar circumstances, or for other perceived gross misconduct offences, and Clarkson was not.”