Argentinian judge rules Jeremy Clarkson deliberately picked offensive Falklands number plate for Top Gear episode
The Top Gear presenter's Falklands-referenced Porsche plate was arrogant, disrespectful and provocative, according to a court ruling in Argentina
Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear colleagues deliberately entered Argentina with a Falklands-referenced number plate, a judge has ruled.
Maria Cristina Barrionuevo rejected claims by the BBC and the presenter that the use of the plate H982 FKL on Clarkson's Porsche was an "unfortunate coincidence”.
She also described the decision to drive through southern Argentina with the vehicle – abandoned after angry locals forced the Top Gear team to halt filming and flee the country – "arrogant and disrespectful”.
Insisting Clarkson and his crew acted with the aim of "provoking people" in a report released earlier this week, Mrs Barrionuevo added: "The reaction of locals to such an offensive action was to be expected."
Clarkson, 55, was said to have infuriated the Argentines with the number plate, which was seen as a goading reference to the 1982 Falklands conflict.
He and co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May fled Argentina with a police escort after angry Falklands War veterans threatened to kill him.
The judge, based in the southern city of Ushuaia, where the trouble occurred last October, also ruled that the Porsche's number plate had been changed after the vehicle entered Argentina's southernmost tip of Patagonia. This is an offence that can lead to a conviction for falsification and carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
Local prosecutor Daniel Curtale had asked the judge to open a criminal investigation for alleged falsification. However, Mrs Barrionuevo rejected this call, concluding programme chiefs had acted to avert more conflict.
In her ruling, referring to the Falklands as the Malvinas, she said: "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."
The judge concluded that the Top Gear team had not acted in "bad faith" in changing the plates and their hand was forced by "massive government and popular pressure".
Local prosecutors have been informed of the judge’s decision and are understood to be preparing an appeal.
The news follows reports earlier this week that Top Gear’s executive producer, Andy Wilman, has resigned from the show. Wilman's decision followed May's announcement he would not return as a Top Gear host without Clarkson, whose contract was not renewed after he is alleged to have punched one of the producers of the show on March 4.