File on 4

BBC Radio 4


Award-winning current affairs documentary series investigating major issues at home and abroad

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418 episodes

A Coal Town Mystery

It’s a scandal that went uncovered for 30 years. Body parts and organs from former workers in the nuclear industry were systematically removed for research. But the families of those former workers were never told. The truth only came to light following a three year inquiry published in 2010. But was this practice contained to one industry, or was this happening on behalf of others too? News reports around the time of the Sellafield scandal claimed that organs of coal miners were also being routinely removed during post-mortems at the request of the then National Coal Board. So, was the coal industry involved in a similar scandal - and to what extent? And could the need to advance research and science ever be seen to outweigh the need for permission? Reporter and producer: Emma Forde Technical Producer: Richard Hannaford Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Clare Fordham

Feb 27
When Abortion is a Crime

The case of Carla Foster made headlines last year after the mother-of-three was initially sentenced to two years in prison for taking abortion pills after the legal cut-off. Since then, several other women have appeared in English courts accused of having illegal abortions, with increasing numbers of women under police investigation. Reporter Divya Talwar hears from women who have been investigated on suspicion of procuring illegal abortions, meets one woman who was prosecuted and sentenced, and hears from a journalist who believes the law is proportionate. File on 4 reveals that in some cases, women who have experienced pregnancy loss and premature deliveries are also being investigated on suspicion of having illegal abortions. There have been growing calls from campaigners and MPs to scrap the Victorian law that criminalises abortion in England and Wales and replace with medical regulation instead - as is the case in Northern Ireland. While some say the law doesn’t need to be changed, others believe urgent reform is required so women involved are treated with compassion instead of being punished. Reporter: Divya Talwar Producers: Anna Meisel and Eleanor Layhe Technical Producer: Richard Hannaford Production Coordinator: Tim Fernley Editor: Clare Fordham and Carl Johnston Image Credit: MartinPrescott\Getty

Feb 20
A Plan to Kill - The Murder of Brianna Ghey

File on 4 tells the story behind the brutal killing of schoolgirl Brianna Ghey. She was attacked in a park near Warrington in Cheshire on a Saturday afternoon in February 2023. Two teenagers - Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe - who were obsessed with murder and torture, have been convicted of her murder. In the build-up to the killing, they exchanged text messages outlining details of their plan. The girl even wrote a detailed plan of how they would go about the murder which was found by police in her bedroom. File on 4 has discovered how she had been part of a 'managed move' to Brianna's school after she poisoned a younger girl with a cannabis-infused 'gummy' and didn't tell her what was in it. The 13-year-old became very poorly and the police were alerted. The victim's family decided against further action and the matter was referred back to the school. Scarlett Jenkinson was suspended for five days and later transferred to Brianna's school where the two girls became friends. However, before accepting Jenkinson on their register, the school was not given all the details of the incident involving the cannabis sweet. Warrington Borough Council says a child safeguarding review is underway and it will examine all of the issues - including the circumstances surrounding the managed transfer. Reporter: Katie Barnfield Producer: Hayley Mortimer Technical Producer: Richard Hannaford Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Feb 02
Ireland's Far Right Riot

When three young children and their carer were stabbed outside a school in Dublin, protests against immigration began, fuelled by rumours on social media. A night of rioting then followed, with shops looted, vehicles set alight, and police attacked. The rioting has placed immigration centre stage of Irish politics, with one of the country’s most famous sports stars, mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor, claiming Ireland is “at war” and saying he wants to be president. File on 4 investigates what caused the riots, and asks is Ireland at a turning point in its history? Reporter: Shane Harrison Producers: Fergus Hewison and Surya Elango Technical Producer: Sue Stonestreet Production Coordinator: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Jan 30
Bailiffs Behaving Badly

Councils in England and Wales are owed half a billion pounds - mainly in uncollected taxes and fines; money that's needed for essential services. Now, more and more, many are turning to bailiffs to recover the money. File on 4 hears from those on the receiving end - and industry insiders who say their colleagues are incentivised to behave badly. Mark Lobel also speaks to those at the forefront of industry reform who believe say the industry still needs to clean up its act. Reporter: Mark Lobel Producers: Phil Marzouk Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Jan 22
Lethal Weapons: The Blank-Firing Guns Converted to Kill

Handguns which fire blanks are being converted into deadly weapons by criminals. File on 4 has discovered they're now being used more often than real handguns. Adrian Goldberg meets victims of gun crime and explores the UK's trade in illegal firearms. He discovers how easy it is to buy a blank firing pistol which can be illegally converted into a lethal weapon in 20 minutes, and hears from a former gangster who warns the law has too many loopholes. The UK has some of the strictest firearm laws in the world. So as some criminals struggle to obtain genuine guns, they're now getting blank-firing weapons converted into deadly weapons. As reporter Adrian Goldberg discovers how easy it is, gun campaigners call for tighter regulations around the manufacture and sale of blank firing weapons. Reporter: Adrian Goldberg Producer: Paul Grant Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Jan 15
Escaping Anna

A group of women turned to a private specialist eating disorder clinic in Bath hoping they would receive life-changing treatment. They say their mental and physical health deteriorated while the psychologist in charge subjected them to psychological abuse. The clinic has since closed its doors, but the former patients say they have been left with life-long scars Reporter: Divya Talwar Producer: Ellie Layhe

Jan 11
Doctor of Deception

For more than twenty years, Zholia Alemi worked as a psychiatrist for the NHS. She practiced the length and breadth of the country, treating vulnerable patients with dementia, learning disabilities and mental illness. And then she was caught in a lie. Alemi was found guilty of forging a dementia patient’s will. But this deception was only the beginning. From Crowd Network, Doctor of Deception investigates how one woman’s web of lies reveals historic flaws in the system designed to keep patients safe. If you were treated by Zholia Alemi, or have concerns about her practice, there is a support page available on the General Medical Council’s website: Presenter: Saleyha Ahsan Producer: Louisa Adams Technical Producer: Phill Brown Executive Producer: Samantha Psyk

Jan 02
The Murder of Brianna Ghey - A File On 4 special

File on 4 tells the story behind the brutal killing of 16-year-old transgender schoolgirl Brianna Ghey. She was attacked in a park near Warrington in Cheshire on a Saturday afternoon in February 2023. Two teenagers, who were obsessed with murder and torture, have been convicted of her murder. In the build-up to the killing, they'd exchanged text messages outlining a details of their plan. Reporter Katie Barnfield speaks to Brianna’s mother and the detective involved in bringing her killers to justice. Reporter: Katie Barnfield Producer: Hayley Mortimer Technical Producer: Richard Hannaford Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Dec 20, 2023
Uninsurable Planet

Felicity Hannah explores how climate change is leaving communities 'uninsurable' because of the rising risk of them being hit by extreme weather events. She speaks to one businessman living in 'Hurricane Alley' in Louisiana, who has seen his premiums rise by $200,000 in just three years, and learns how many residents are now having to run the risk of living without insurance, because the cost is just too high. In Australia, she speaks to residents resigned to the fact that their hometown is considered too much of a risk for the insurance industry. Instead, the government has bought their homes and they have been forced to leave. In the UK too, Felicity meets business owners already deemed 'uninsurable' because of the frequency of flooding they have faced. Meanwhile British homeowners relying on a temporary fix that has helped reduce their premiums must hope flood defences are built before time runs out. Could rising premiums be the canary in the coalmine for taking more decisive action on climate change? Presenter: Felicity Hannah Producer: Nick Holland Production Coordinator: Gemma Ashman Editor Richard Fenton-Smith Sound Design: Graham Puddifoot

Dec 19, 2023
Shoplifting and organised crime

File on 4 reveals how hundreds of vulnerable women and children are being trafficked to the UK by organised crime gangs to work as shoplifters. The victims are forced to live in squalor in overcrowded houses in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Investigators have discovered there are 154 known members of one gang which is making millions for the gangmasters from Eastern Europe. High street stores have reported a 25 per cent increase in the number of shoplifting incidents over the last year. Reporter: Datshiane Navanayagam Producers: Holly Clemens and Kate West Editor: Carl Johnston

Dec 12, 2023
Whistling in the Wind: The NHS doctors sacked after raising concerns

Lucy Letby was allowed to continue working with new-born babies despite her colleagues raising concerns about her for months. Her conviction highlighted how NHS executives put the reputation of the Countess of Chester NHS Trust ahead of patient safety. But what happened in Cheshire was far from a one-off. File on 4 hears from doctors with unblemished medical careers who were sacked after raising patient safety concerns. The programme follows one medic through an Employment Tribunal as he attempts to save his career, and hears the emotional, brutal toll the process takes on him. For the first time, a top doctor who won record damages talks about the extraordinary steps her managers took to undermine her. Their tactics included relocating her to an empty office with a broken chair and telling colleagues that she agreed with their assessment she was incompetent. And a former NHS executive tells the programme that trusts are more interested in “flying LGBT flags” than tackling concerns about patient safety. With widespread calls for NHS managers to be regulated, File on 4 asks who should take on the role, given the willingness of the NHS to redeploy managers found to have ignored patient safety concerns, or even punished those who dared to raise them. Reporter: Michael Buchanan Producer: Katie Langton Editor: Carl Johnston

Dec 05, 2023
Artificial Intelligence: The Criminal Threat

Artificial intelligence, or AI, makes it possible for machines to learn - and in the future it will perform many tasks now done by humans. But are criminals and bad actors ahead of the curve? AI is already being used to commit fraud and other crimes by generating fake videos and audio; fast emerging threats that form just part of a potential new crime wave. File on 4 investigates. Reporter: Paul Connolly Producer: Fergus Hewison Editor: Carl Johnston

Nov 28, 2023
Lost in Translation

When people who don't speak English, including refugees arriving in the UK after fleeing war, they are entitled to receive the support of interpreters when dealing with public sector organisations. The service provides a lifeline for some of society's most vulnerable people to help them navigate places like hospitals, social services and courts. But reporter Matthew Hill hears allegations the service is seriously failing those who need it most - with tragic consequences. Data obtained exclusively by File on 4 has revealed over the past five years at least 80 babies have died or suffered serious brain injuries in NHS maternity units in England, where interpreting and communication problems due to language difficulties, were a contributing factor. The programme also hears from an alleged victim of serious sexual abuse who says she was unable to give police an accurate account of her ordeal because the interpreter was so poor. Campaigners claim huge disparities in the levels of qualifications required in public service organisations and poor rates of pay have caused an exodus of qualified interpreters, which they claim is putting some of society's most vulnerable people at risk of harm. Reporter: Matthew Hill Producers: Ben Robinson and Surya Elango Editor: Carl Johnston

Nov 21, 2023
Disability and the Adult Industry

As a young person, Ellen Macleod wasn’t sure whether her disabilities would mean she could never have sex so she turned to the internet. There she found porn featuring disabled adults, but those films threw up dark questions around consent, exploitation and whether disabled people were being made the involuntary subject of a fetish. Now Ellen has teamed up with journalist Nastaran Tavakoli Far to investigate whether what she saw online was extreme role play or very real abuse. Ellen and Nas speak to disabled adult content creators, as well as safeguarding and legal experts to explore how society protects vulnerable adults, and what many of us get wrong about sex and disability. If you have been affected by sexual abuse or violence, details of help and support is available at Presenters: Ellen Macleod and Nastaran Tavakoli-Far Producer: Ailsa Rochester Sound Design: Rob Green Executive Producer: Jo Meek An Audio Always production for BBC Radio 4

Nov 07, 2023
The Anatomy of a Fraud

File on 4 highlights one fraud phone call, in order to shine a light on how scammers work. A man rings a company pretending to be from the bank. How does he persuade a victim he is legitimate? We consider the psychological, financial and emotional impact fraud has on those involved, and we hear from experts hunting the perpetrators. Producer: Vicky Carter Reporter: Iona Bain Technical Producer: Kelly Young Production Coordinators: Tim Fernley and Jordan King Editor: Clare Fordham

Oct 24, 2023
Wilko Town

The collapse of retail giant Wilko in September left 12,500 people out of work across the UK. No area has been harder hit by the redundancies than the Nottinghamshire town of Worksop, where Wilko employed 1,200 people at its head office, shop and distribution centre. Citizen's Advice has been helping those affected warning that debt in the town was at a record level before the collapse and has doubled since this time last year. Reporter Jane Deith has been following the lives of several former Wilko staff as they attempt to find new jobs. Producer: Matt Pintus Reporter: Jane Deith Technical Producer: Craig Boardman Production Coordinators: Tim Fernley and Jordan King Editor: Tara McDermott

Oct 17, 2023
Bankrupt Birmingham

A perfect storm of equal pay claims and a huge overspend on an IT project has brought Europe’s largest local authority to its knees. But how did Birmingham go from the triumph of hosting the Commonwealth Games to financial ruin in just over a year? Adrian Goldberg investigates for File on 4. Producer: Phil Marzouk Producer: Fergus Hewison Producer: Megan Jones Reporter: Adrian Goldberg Technical Producer: Matthew Dempsey Production Coordinator: Tim Fernley Editor: Clare Fordham

Oct 10, 2023
Security Threat: Sham training courses risk public safety

The Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017 left 22 people dead and more than a thousand injured. The subsequent inquiry found security arrangements were lacking with some security staff admitting they were untrained in vital procedures. File on 4 goes undercover to reveal how, despite assurances the industry has tightened up procedures, some training companies are offering 'fast-track' courses which don't comply with regulations. the programme also reveals how candidates are told to falsifty time sheets and are given the answers to a final examination to ensure they pass and can subsequently work in an industry which is supposed to keep the public safe. Producer: Kate West Reporter: Greg McKenzie Assistant producer: Nick Holland Editor: Carl Johnston

Oct 02, 2023
The Great Replacement

The Great Replacement is an idea fueling far-right recruitment around the world - the idea that white communities and culture are being purposely replaced by non-white migrants. Many far-right terrorists have referenced this theory as the driving force behind their murderous actions - but where does this idea originate from, and how seriously should we be taking its proliferation here in the UK? Terrorism expert Raffaello Pantucci explores the roots of the Great Replacement and asks if this is just a far-right conspiracy theory as some critics claim, or is there a kernel of truth reflected in the UK's changing demography? If so, how are communities - and the government - managing this change? Immigration is often a difficult topic of public debate, with many people concerned that any questioning of immigration policy will label them as racist. But if we can’t talk more openly, without fear of judgement, are we at risk of handing control of the immigration narrative to extremists? Reporter: Raffaello Pantucci, Senior Fellow at the Royal United Service Institute, Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Richard Fenton-Smith

Sep 21, 2023
The Dark Side of Ballet

Hayley Hassall investigates accusations of bullying and body-shaming at some of the UK’s elite ballet schools. File on 4 and Panorama have spoken to more than 50 ex-students of the Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst Ballet School who attended between 2004 and 2022. Many described developing eating disorders, while some said they had been left with mental health problems. One retired ballerina File on 4 has spoken to has begun legal action against the Royal Ballet School for the treatment she says she suffered there. The two ballet schools dispute the accounts given to the BBC and say they are working hard to change the culture, and put health and wellbeing at the forefront of their priorities Reporter: Hayley Hassall Producer: Paul Grant Editors: Carl Johnston and Clare Fordham

Sep 11, 2023
The Crooked House

The Crooked House: One summer’s night the Crooked House, known as Britain’s wonkiest pub, caught fire. Less than 48 hours later the ruins were knocked to the ground, completely destroying an iconic symbol of the Black Country. The pub gained its name, and worldwide fame, from its crazy angles caused by mining subsidence. But its loss is now being mourned amid calls for it to be rebuilt brick by brick. File on 4 tells the story behind the destruction of the Crooked House. Presenter: Adrian Goldberg Producers: Fergus Hewison, Emma Forde and Phil Marzouk Assistant Producers: Ella Rule and Patrick Kiteley Production Coordinators: Tim Fernley and Jordan King Technical Producer: Kelly Young Editor: Carl Johnston

Sep 05, 2023
A Different Class: Excluded kids lured into crime

After an inevitable decline during the pandemic, school exclusions are again on the increase. There are concerns that behaviour is worse because, post pandemic, children can’t regulate their behaviour in the classroom. So what happens to those who are kicked out? The Government says it has issued updated guidance on suspensions and permanent exclusions and is clear that initial intervention should be put in place where children are at risk of being permanently excluded and entering alternative provision. It says permanent exclusions should always be a last resort and shouldn’t mean exclusion from education. But File on 4 hears compelling evidence from pupils, parents and teachers to suggest hundreds - maybe thousands - are falling under the radar, targeted by criminal gangs, forced to sell drugs and lured into a life of crime. Reporter: De-Graft Mensah Producers: Shona Elliott and Tom Wall Senior Digital Journalist: Melanie Stewart-Smith Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Technical Producer: Gareth Jones Editor: Carl Johnston

Aug 29, 2023
Jon Holmes, Generation Shame

Last year a Parliamentary Report concluded that between 1949 and 1976, around 185,000 babies of unmarried mothers were put up for adoption in England and Wales, many of these by force. For File on Four, The Skewer’s Jon Holmes investigates whether he was one of them. Jon Holmes has always known he was adopted, but was never very interested in searching for his birth parents until results of a recent DNA test proved he was of Irish heritage and his curiosity was piqued. A large folder arrives from Warwickshire County Council and slowly Jon begins to unpick the story of his life and the world he was born into. As secrets of Jon’s past are revealed, a Parliamentary Report by the Committee on Human Rights is published detailing shocking and vivid accounts of mothers being forced into giving up their babies by a society that outcast and shamed them at every turn. What will Jon discover about his own family? What truths will he uncover as he speaks to mothers forced into handing their newborns over, as well as fellow adoptees about the damaging and traumatic culture he was born into? Government has always denied any responsibility and is refusing demands for an apology, but is that really the case? As Jon slowly finds out more about his own past, he also investigates the impact of this era and asks where does responsibility for this societal culture lie… and can it ever be repaired? Presenter: Jon Holmes Producer: Elizabeth Foster

Aug 22, 2023
The Wolf of Crypto

Set in the belly of rural England, the small village of Winchmore Hill is a far cry from the world of privileged tech bros and slick silicon valley investors, often associated with crypto currencies. Yet in 2021, this community just north of Slough became the recruiting ground for a crypto investment called Koda. Thanks to the gregarious pub landlord, who promoted the coin and ran crypto nights, a big chunk of this community where everyone knows everyone put money into the currency. They invested thousands of pounds, in some cases their life savings, but when the currency plummeted months later, they lost it all, leaving the community utterly devastated. Lucinda Borrell explores the lasting impact on this small village, and asks why this particular crypto coin became so appealing in the first place.

Aug 01, 2023
Modern Slavery in the Care Sector

With the number of potential modern slavery cases in England and Wales at a record level, File on 4 investigates how vulnerable people are being targeted and exploited by organised crime groups for cheap labour. Police estimate that there are tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery in the United Kingdom, being forced to work and live in inhumane conditions with little hope of escape. Investigators whose job it is to protect workers from exploitation reveal to File on 4 that the care industry has become their top priority in the past 18 months. Datshiane Navanayagam finds out why and asks whether the systems in place to support victims are working. Reporter: Datshiane Navanayagam Producers: Matt Pintus and Phil Marzouk Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Production Manager: Sarah Payton Digital Producers: Melanie Stewart-Smith and Georgia-Mae Browne Technical Producer: Cameron Ward Editor: Carl Johnston

Jul 25, 2023
The Epilepsy Drug Scandal

It’s been called a bigger scandal than Thalidomide. The drug sodium valproate is estimated to have harmed 20,000 children in the UK. It’s mainly used to treat epilepsy and other conditions such as bipolar disorder. But taking the drug when pregnant can cause serious harm to unborn babies. Even when it was licenced fifty years ago, it was known to cause harm to foetuses in animals. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the patient information leaflet, which should come with a prescription- gave clear warnings on the risks of taking valproate in pregnancy to unborn children, beyond a small chance of spina bifida. File on 4 asks if the health regulators in the UK and the company who make it, Sanofi, did enough to inform patients of the severity of the drug's risks soon enough. Meanwhile, new risks of the drug are still emerging. A new study shows the drug may affect the neurological development of children fathered by men taking valproate. The evidence is still inconclusive, but neurologists are uncertain what to advise their male patients on valproate. And why are women still getting pregnant on it? We ask if the system set up to protect women taking it is working as it should be? A major review of the drug made a number of recommendations, including the setting up of specialist clinics and a compensation scheme for those affected. The programme asks what progress has been made in the UK to implement those changes, and are we lagging behind other countries? File on 4 speaks to the families whose children have been left with lifelong neurological and physical disabilities as a result of taking the medication. Reporter: Rachel Stonehouse Producers: Jane Fellner and Emma Forde Editor: Carl Johnston

Jul 18, 2023
The GP Crisis

The morning rush in a doctor’s surgery usually begins around 8am, before the doors even open, as patients ring up to try and get a precious appointment. But why is it so hard to get to see a GP, and why is primary care under such pressure? File on 4 has spent a week in a GP’s surgery speaking to doctors, staff, and patients to try and understand the challenges facing the front line of health care. The programme has been given access to what goes on behind the scenes at a doctor’s surgery in Gateshead, on Tyneside, in one of the most deprived parts of England. It hears why a growing population, more elderly people, and fewer fully qualified doctors dealing with more complex health problems are all factors pushing some GP practices to the brink, and some to consider leaving the profession altogether. Reporter: Paul Kenyon Producers: Fergus Hewison and Kat Collins Techincal Producer: Nicky Edwards Editor: Carl Johnston

Jul 11, 2023
The Organ Harvesters

File on 4 tells the story of a young street trader from Lagos who revealed a conspiracy that took down one of Nigeria’s most powerful politicians. The young man was tested, trafficked and tricked into a plot to take his kidney, to donate to the politician’s sick daughter in the UK. His conviction - the first of its kind in the UK - has led to police investigating more potential cases. Reporter: Mark Lobel Producer: Kate West Technical Producer: Kelly Young Digital Producer: Melanie Stewart-Smith Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Jun 26, 2023
Scout's Honour?

Nearly half a million young people in the UK are members of the Scout Association. The organisation employs 143,000 adult volunteers and leads the way in nurturing a love of the outdoors and providing practical skills which will allow members to make a positive contribution to society. But not everyone has been enriched by the experience. File on 4 has learned that in the last ten years the Scout Association has paid out £6m to scouts who were abused. Reporter Hayley Hassall hears from some female abuse survivors who say they were ignored when they reported abuse. The Scout Movement says it is "deeply sorry" for anyone who has suffered abuse. Now there are calls for the organsiation to overhaul its safeguarding policy. John Cameron, the former director of ChildLine and head of child protection operations at the NSPCC, tells File on 4 that voluntary organisations would benefit from an independent body overseeing safeguarding practices. Reporter: Hayley Hassall Producer: Paul Grant Researcher: Shona Elliott Technical Producer: Kelly Young Digital Producer: Melanie Stewart-Smith Journalism Assistant: Tim Fernley Editor: Carl Johnston

Jun 13, 2023