Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Clarkson joke cleared by watchdog

Jeremy Clarkson
The BBC said Clarkson did not intend to cause offence

Jokes made by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes did not breach the broadcasting code, Ofcom has ruled.

The media regulator received 339 complaints and the BBC more than 1,800 over the comments made last month.

Ofcom ruled Clarkson "was clearly using exaggeration to make a joke".

The presenter's comments came after forklift truck driver Steve Wright was jailed in February for killing five prostitutes in Ipswich.

As he completed a lorry-driving task, Clarkson said: "This is a hard job and I'm not just saying that to win favour with lorry drivers, it's a hard job.

"Change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day."

'Comic effect'

"Ofcom did not believe the intention of the comments could be seen to imply that all lorry drivers murder prostitutes, nor would it be reasonable to make such an inference," the watchdog said.

"In Ofcom's view, the presenter was clearly using exaggeration to make a joke, albeit not to everyone's taste. The comments should therefore be seen in that context."

Ofcom added it considered the majority of the audience would have understood Clarkson's comments as being made for comic effect, and were in keeping with what would normally be expected from him on the show.

Last month Labour MP Chris Mole called for Clarkson to be sacked, calling the comments "a dismissible offence".

Five women working as prostitutes were murdered in Mr Mole's Ipswich constituency in 2006.

In response to the complaints the BBC said: "This particular reference was used to comically exaggerate, and make ridiculous, an unfair urban myth about the world of lorry driving, and was not intended to cause offence."

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