A former police officer was entitled to an interim injunction restraining the BBC from broadcasting on television an interview that highlighted his criminal past

Tom Dane

In F v BBC (2018), a former police officer applied for relief restraining the broadcast by the respondent BBC of an interview of him recorded near his home.

In 2003, the applicant (A) had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal, theft and gross misconduct in public office as, while he was the investigating officer in an investigation of car theft, he had stolen £165,000. A was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

Consequently, the convictions of those involved in the car theft were quashed. A had also been involved in an investigation which led to the conviction of another person (B) for murder. B later sought the help of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), who interviewed A twice. B alleged that A had been corrupt, but the Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the allegations and B’s appeal against conviction.

A’s convictions became spent in 2015 and he changed his name. Since release from prison he had obtained a photography qualification and a new job and moved to a new area.

The BBC programme Panaroma intended to prepare a report on the CCRC and its alleged failings. As part of this report, it intended to feature B’s case. A BBC reporter approached A near his home and attempted to interview him about the allegations of corruption B had made against him and raised his previous convictions.

A applied for an injunction restraining the Panorama programme from including the video footage of the “interview” outside his home. The court had to balance A’s right to privacy against the BBC’s right to freedom of expression and considered the following:

• Likelihood of claim succeeding at trial: The applicant was more likely than not to show that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his attempts to rehabilitate himself. On the evidence, the applicant seemed sincere. He was entitled to live without being ambushed about something that had happened many years ago.

• Balance: Where the values at stake were protected by Article 8 ECHR (right to privacy) and Art 10 ECHR (freedom of expression), the focus had to be on the comparative importance of rights. There was a clear conflict between A’s reasonable expectation of privacy and the BBC’s approach to interviewing him. The BBC’s approach to the interview and the selective way that it sought to broadcast the information would not inform the public or allow it to reach a fair judgment.

• Justification: The justification for interfering with the BBC’s interests was that it protected A’s practical attempts to rehabilitate himself. The justification for interfering with A’s rights appeared to be that the BBC wanted to paint him as evasive, not that it wanted to inform the public about the case.

• Proportionality: The relief A sought was necessary to protect a legitimate aim. The BBC would be prevented from broadcasting footage of the applicant at or near his new home, none of which were necessary for the legitimate aim of reporting a miscarriage of justice. It was not a proportionate interference with A’s Art.8 rights and reasonable expectation of privacy for the material to be broadcast.

F v BBC (14 May 2018) Unreported

Post By Tom Dane (11 Posts)

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