Television journalist may be prosecuted for saving orphan

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The Independent Online
THE ITN journalist Michael Nicholson could be taken to court for rescuing a 10-year-old orphan from the devastated city of Sarajevo.

The Home Office said yesterday that charges could be brought against Mr Nicholson under forgery and counterfeit laws because he had admitted adding the name of the girl, Natasha, to his passport and pretending that she was his daughter. The airline which flew Mr Nicholson and the child to safety could also face a fine under the Carriers' Liability Act for bringing a passenger to Britain who did not have proper documentation. But Home Office officials were far from certain last night about whether a prosecution would be brought.

Mr Nicholson had immediately told immigration officers what he had done and his spontaneous admission was, the officials said, a strong mitigating factor. However, they added that they did not want to encourage others to believe that they had the right to save orphans by altering their passports. They rejected the idea that Mr Nicholson would receive privileged treatment because he was a television reporter. The Home Office Immigration Service would supply the evidence for a prosecution and pass it over to the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the Immigration Service had not contacted the police when Mr Nicholson arrived in Britain. But it added that since the story broke, officers had been 'liaising with the Immigration Service to look into the background of this matter. If offences are found to have been committed they will be dealt with in the normal way.'

If a case is brought, the spectacle of the Government prosecuting a well-known media figure for the crime of saving a little girl could cause intense political embarrassment.

Don Flynn, spokesman for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said he thought a prosecution was highly unlikely. 'The Home Office hates cases like this,' he said. 'It does everything possible to stop people bringing children to Britain, but once they are here, it behaves decently. We have not quite reached the stage where children are being put on planes back to the war zone.'

Mr Nicholson was not available for comment last night.