Top Gear car's registration plate which hints at the Falkands war of 1982
The car bearing the registration plate which hinted at the Falkands war of 1982. BBC

Top Gear producers deliberately picked a controversial number plate referencing the 1982 Falklands war when they entered Argentina last year, a judge has ruled.

Judge Maria Cristina Barrionuevo said presenter Jeremy Clarkson and producers of the programme had deliberately made an "arrogant and disrespectful" move aimed at "provoking people".

"The reaction to such an offensive action was to be expected," the judge said, ruling that the plate had been illegally changed after the vehicle entered the country – an offence that can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

This contradicts the BBC's version of events, which is that the number plate H982 FKL was not chosen deliberately and was an "unfortunate coincidence".

Aborted filming

Filming on last year's Top Gear Christmas special was halted and Clarkson and his fellow presenters Richard Hammond and James May had to leave Argentina after the numberplate enraged locals, who formed an angry mob and stoned the car.

The numberplate contains the digits 982 and the letters FLK, which refer to the year Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands Islands.

Judge Barrionuevo, who is based in the southern city of Ushuaia, where the incident occurred last October, rejected calls for an official probe into the incident. Local prosecutors may appeal the decision.

A source told the Daily Mirror: "Many Argentinian people were outraged at this stunt and the people deserve justice."

Earlier this week, the show's executive producer, Andy Wilman, announced that he had quit Top Gear following the sacking Jeremy Clarkson, after the star presenter allegedly assaulted a member of the Top Gear crew during a row over a hot dinner.

Wilman later described the sacking of Clarkson as a "tragedy".