Nicholls v BBC

Reference: [1999] EMLR 791

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Butler-Sloss, Schiemann and Potter LJJ

Date of judgment: 29 Mar 1999

Summary: Interlocutory injunction preventing broadcast of programme - breach of confidence - injunction granted ex parte, then discharged - appeal by plaintiff

Appearances: Desmond Browne CBE KC - Leading Counsel (Defendant)  Godwin Busuttil (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: BBC Litigation Department for the BBC


The plaintiff was a “supergrass”. He had given evidence leading to the conviction of two men for the murder of three major drug dealers in Essex. The threat to the life and safety of the plaintiff, his wife and their children was such that they had been placed on a police witness protection programme. The plaintiff had then co-operated in the making of a documentary about his experiences on the witness protection programme. Steps were taken by the programme maker to prevent disclosure in the programme of the plaintiff’s new identity and whereabouts, in consultation with the police. Notwithstanding that the police stated they were satisfied that these measures were adequate to protect the plaintiff and his family, the plaintiff applied for and obtained an interlocutory injunction on the basis that broadcast would increase the risk of harm to the plaintiff and his family. Morland J discharged the injunction on the ground that the programme would not increase this risk.


Whether broadcast would increase the risk of harm to the plaintiff and his family.


Appeal allowed. Injunction reinstated.


Injunction granted to prevent broadcast where that would increase risk of harm to ‘supergrass’ on witness protection scheme.