BBC ordered to bear costs after withdrawing privilege defence

Panorama IVF Doctor entitled to related legal costs

Mohammed Taranissi, the IVF doctor suing the BBC in relation to an edition of Panorama entitled ‘IVF Undercover’ and his clinic ARGC have been awarded their legal costs of responding to a defence of Reynolds qualified privilege recently withdrawn by the broadcaster. The BBC said in evidence to the High Court that it felt compelled to withdraw the defence to protect its confidential sources but stood fully behind the programme and its journalists.

The claim is still defended by the BBC and the trial of its justification defence is scheduled to take place in January 2009. The claim is to be tried by a Judge sitting without a jury.The BBC had argued that the decision on costs should be deferred until after the trial but Mr Justice Eady ruled that there was no reason to delay the making of a costs order in principle. Mr Taranissi, whose lawyers estimated their costs of responding to the privilege defence at £500,000, was refused an order for immediate assessment and the Judge declined to order the BBC to make any interim payment.

Last November Mr Taranissi settled his libel claim against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for words spoken on the Panorama programme.