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BBC presenter hurt while playing role of ‘crash test dummy’ awarded £1.6m damages

TV star suffered injuries to his brain, spine and audio-vestibular system during filming

Andy Gregory
Friday 01 October 2021 19:49 BST
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Jeremy Stansfield presents a Bang Goes the Theory segment in which he acts as a ‘crash test dummy'
Jeremy Stansfield presents a Bang Goes the Theory segment in which he acts as a ‘crash test dummy' (BBC)
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A television presenter has been awarded £1.6m in damages after he suffered brain and spine injuries while acting as a “crash test dummy” in a science programme.

Jeremy Stansfield won a High Court battle with the BBC on Friday, with Dame Justice Amanda Yip ruling that the injuries he received in 2013 had derailed his “successful career in television” and restricted his enjoyment of life.

The BBC had argued that Mr Stansfield suffered “little more than a moderate whiplash injury with depressive symptoms”, but agreed to pay “two thirds of the damages assessed as being caused by injuries”.

An engineer by background, Mr Stansfield, who is known as “Jem”, was a presenter on Bang Goes The Theory, which ran for eight seasons between 2009 and 2014.

In the episode which gave rise to the claim, Mr Stansfield assumed the role of a human “crash test dummy” for a feature comparing the safety of forward and rearward-facing child car seats – with two crashes performed in each direction.

He was strapped into a rig like a go-cart which was propelled along a track into a post, Ms Justice Yip said, adding that, in the introduction to the segment, the presenter explained that he had calculated the experiment to give a similar crash profile to hitting a lamppost in a real car in an urban environment.

In the episode, he can be heard remarking that he is “a little nervous” about the stunt, adding: “I’m forward-facing, I’m heading for a solid-steel bar. How bad can it be?”

Ms Justice Yip said: “It is not in dispute, and perhaps not surprising, that the claimant suffered some injury. What is contentious is the extent of that injury and the consequences for the claimant.”

The judge ruled that Mr Stansfield, aged 42 when the television episode was filmed, suffered injury to his brain, spine and audio-vestibular system during the crash tests.

“While none of the physical injuries were particularly severe, the combined effect together with a psychiatric reaction have caused a constellation of symptoms and problems which have produced a significant impairment in the claimant's functioning,” she said in her ruling.

“The effect has been to derail the claimant's successful career in television as well as to restrict his enjoyment of life more generally.”

Prior to these injuries, the results of a physical assessment ordered by the BBC had suggested his body was “performing at the level of a competitive athlete”, the judge added.

“There is strong evidence that prior to the crash tests he was an exceptionally fit man,” she said. “Video footage from the time shows that he was slim but with strong musculature.

“There are clips of him balancing and walking on his hands and scaling a building using vacuum gloves he created.”

The BBC had contended that “little more than a moderate whiplash injury with depressive symptoms could properly be attributed to the crash tests, such as would give rise to only modest damages”, the judge said.

Additional reporting by PA

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