Full case report

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


Facts

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.


Issue

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


Held

Appeal allowed. Injunction reinstated.


Comment

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


Instructing Solicitors

BBC Litigation Department for the BBC