Nick Ross

Nick Ross was made a patron of Humanists UK for his exploration of the human condition through the arts.


Nick Ross was born in London and planned to be a clinical psychologist but was distracted by the civil rights movement while a student in Northern Ireland and began reporting for the BBC on the emergent violence. He abandoned a PhD to work on the World at One and presented The World Tonight, Newsdesk and PM before moving to TV with Man Alive, chairing live debates and directing documentaries. One of his films, The biggest epidemic of our times, was credited with transforming road safety in Britain.

His law programme Out of Court led to his selection for an experimental programme Crimewatch, a show which sought to involve viewers in crime detection and which he went on to present for 23 years. Around the same time he launched breakfast TV in the UK, presenting Breakfast Time with Frank Bough and Selina Scott. He was poached to launch a new six o’clock show and during the 1980s and 90s was "one of the most ubiquitous of British broadcasters", including Watchdog on BBC1 and A Week in Politics for Channel 4, featured on This is Your Life, and with several shows named after him including Radio 4’s phone-in Call Nick Ross, a chat show, Nick Ross, and live parliamentary coverage, Westminster with Nick Ross.

He chaired large-scale debates, and his documentaries included biographies of Margaret Thatcher and Robert Mugabe and an award-winning autobiographical account of the troubles in Northern Ireland. He remains an occasional contributor to broadcasting and print journalism but has progressively moved to the voluntary sector where he chairs or is president of several charities, including HealthWatch, Evidence Matters and the London Road Safety Council. He has served on several ethics boards including the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the RCP’s ethics committee, and he chairs the Wales Cancer Bank. He is a trustee of Sense About Science, Crimestoppers and the UK Stem Cell Foundation.

He has also served on several government committees and, after the murder of his colleague, he inspired the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London, where he chairs the Board and is a visiting professor. His book, Crime, explains why, from the 1990s onwards, crime fell dramatically across the industrialised world.

He began to doubt god when, as a small child, he was asked to feed a worm to chickens. For many years he reproached the deity for its moral bankruptcy before accepting the improbability of its existence. He read scholastic philosophy (a Catholic interpretation) as a subsidiary subject at university but, while accepting that faith has brought hope and a sense of purpose to many and that great things have been inspired by superstition, he concludes that religion has no unique claim to morality and has enslaved and crushed as many as it has liberated and enlightened.

See also his website: