Top Gear Falklands row was deliberate, judge rules
JEREMY Clarkson and the Top Gear crew intentionally provoked an Argentinian reaction by driving through parts of the country with a licence plate referencing the Falklands conflict, a judge has ruled.
Judge Maria Cristina Barrionuevo rejected the BBC's claims that the now infamous licence plate on Mr Clarkson's Porsche was nothing more than an "unfortunate coincidence".
Her ruling comes after a particularly worrisome period for Mr Clarkson. Following an alleged altercation with a BBC producer, the often controversial presenter left the long-running show, throwing the future of the series into doubt. The presenter and Sunday Times columnist has also recently spoken of his health scares.
"The reaction of locals to such an offensive action was to be expected," she added.
Mr Clarkson, 55, and his Top Gear colleagues James May and Richard Hammond, were given a police escort from the South American country after angry crowds violently threatened the presenters in October last year.
The trouble stemmed from Mr Clarkson's licence plate, reading H892 FKL, which was taken as a thinly-veiled reference to the 1982 Argentinian conflict.
Judge Barrionuevo said the decision to enter the country with the "Malvinas-referenced" plates was both "arrogant and disrespectful to say the least".
However, the judge did rule that changing the plates - an offence in Argentina that can lead to a conviction for falsification and carry a prison term of up to three years - was not done in "bad faith" and had been undertaken in order to prevent further violence.
She rejected calls from local prosecutor Daniel Curtale to open a criminal investigation against the Top Gear crew.
In her ruling, Judge Barrionuevo, based in the southern city of Ushuaia, explained: "It should be understood that it is not up to me to investigate or evaluate the decision - arrogant and disrespectful to say the least - by the Top Gear production team to enter the country with one or more Malvinas-referenced number plates.
"Nor is it my job to gauge the reaction - anticipated - of citizens to such an offence. My responsibility is to analyse whether a crime has been committed under Argentinian law in relation to the removal from the Porsche of the original number plate H982 FKL and its replacement by another."
Local prosecutors are understood to be preparing an appeal against the judge's decision.
A BBC spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph: "Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original, is completely untrue."