Leigh Day seals victory for former Countryfile host in BBC employment case

Leigh Day partner Camilla Palmer has helped secure victory for former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly in her age discrimination case against the BBC.

Miriam O’Reilly
Miriam O’Reilly

O’Reilly took the BBC to an employment tribunal after she became one of four presenters dropped from the rural affairs show in favour of younger hosts in 2009. The tribunal also upheld claims of victimisation but not sex discrimination.

Among the allegations made at the 12-day hearing held in November, where O’Reilly was represented by Heather Williams QC and Amanda Hart of Doughty Street Chambers, were claims that one senior BBC producer had told O’Reilly: “You’re going to have to be careful about those wrinkles when High Definition comes in.”

Palmer said: “Miriam’s won a great victory –not only for herself but all older people in the media. This has huge implications for all broadcasters, not just the BBC.

“The lesson is that presenters should be selected for their ability, not their age.  Women and men on screen should not be hired or fired on the basis of their age.”

She added: “Miriam’s been so brave to take this case. She took it on behalf of a lot of other people because she believed it was the right thing to do. And the tribunal’s decision shows that it was.

“A lot of women have been waiting for this verdict.”