A BBC radio presenter allowed a phone-in caller to discuss having sex with young children and to claim his victims had enjoyed being abused.
Allan Beswick, host of the Late Night Phone-In programme on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire, engaged in conversation with the man - who said he was calling from prison - for four-and-a-half minutes without cutting him off.
Listeners were horrified to hear the man repeat details of his alleged crimes and to argue that DVDs of “child sex” should be supplied to adults as a substitute for them abusing children.
The BBC Trust launched an immediate investigation after the incident on March 1.
In a damning ruling, the Trust’s editorial standards committee said the programme was a serious breach of BBC guidelines - on harm and offence, reporting crime, and protecting the victims of sexual offences.
“Trustees were deeply troubled by this incident, which they considered showed a grave lack of judgement by the presenter and a serious failure to follow the programme’s protocols.”
The caller “had been given the opportunity to put forward justification for the most serious and distressing of crimes without adequate challenge”, the Trust’s report said.
However, Beswick has not been suspended. Instead, the offending conversation was withdrawn from iPlayer and he made an apology on his programme the following night.
BBC management said Beswick “appeared to have failed to think clearly in the heat of the moment”.
The initial call to Beswick’s 10pm show came through to a trainee call handler. The man said he wished to talk about paedophiles and sex with children, a topic that had been discussed on air the previous night following comments from a chief constable about the issue.
A more senior call handler then put the man on air without further questioning.
Trustees were deeply troubled by this incident, which they considered showed a grave lack of judgement by the presenter and a serious failure to follow the programme's protocols
The man claimed almost immediately that he was calling from prison, but the presenter continued with the call and asked him a series of questions.
The Trust report found that the show’s producer was supposed to listen to every call. However, the producer was working on a news bulletin and “became distracted”, only hearing the last minute of the conversation.
The following morning, the editor was informed of the details and passed the caller’s contact details on to police. It is not known if the man really was a prisoner.
A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: “Police were called at 8.25am on Thursday March 2 to a report that a disclosure of sexual offences had been made on a live radio show. An investigation has been launched.”
In an apology broadcast the following night, Beswick said: “If you were listening last night, you might have heard from a caller who made a number of grossly offensive comments. Now, I’ve listened back to what he said and I’ve discussed the matter with people that I trust, and I’m now convinced that I shouldn’t have allowed the call to continue.
“I should have ended it sooner. A lot sooner. So I apologise for that. And I apologise because I think you’re entitled to expect rather better from me.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “This was completely unacceptable and clearly broke our strict editorial guidelines. A full, on air apology was made.
“All those involved recognise it was wrong to broadcast such offensive content.
“We have already reviewed and strengthened our procedures and provided additional training and supervision.”
The failure to suspend Beswick contrasts with the treatment of another BBC local radio presenter, Alex Dyke, who in 2015 made disparaging remarks about breastfeeding mothers.
Dyke described breastfeeding as “unnatural” and practised by “earth mothers with moustaches”. He was suspended for a week after the Trust found he had committed a serious breach of the corporation’s editorial guidelines.