Bid to stop under-cover footage fails

Channel Four Dispatches resists injunction to prevent broadcast of covert filming in schools programme

The High Court yesterday rejected an attempt by two 15-year-old school children to ban footage of them appearing in a Channel Four Dispatches programme looking at discipline problems in English schools.


Alex Dolan, a supply teacher, had secretly filmed in four schools, two in Islingon (Highbury Grove School and St Aloysius Roman Catholic College) and two in Leeds (Intake High School Arts College and John Smeaton School). The footage from the two Leeds’ schools and from Highbury Grove showed appalling discipline problems, including fighting in the classrooms and swearing at teachers.


The two pupils, who attended John Smeaton school in Leeds – one of the school featured in the programme – contended that broadcasting secret filming of them at school would be an infringement of their privacy. They asked the Court to restrain Channel Four from including any covert filming of them in the programme.


Channel Four resisted the injunction on the basis that the identities of all pupils on the programme had been masked and that the public interest in the subject matter outweighed any privacy interests of the two pupils.


The Judge, Mr Justice Munby, sitting at Newcastle High Court, viewed the proposed programme. He described the programme as a “serious documentary” and said that the footage of what had taken place in the classrooms of the three schools was “shocking”. Refusing the injunction, he held that although the applicants did have a legitimate expectation of privacy whilst at school, those privacy rights were outweighed by the substantial public interest in the programme.


The programme, Undercover Teacher, is due to be transmitted tonight at 9pm on Channel Four as part of the Dispatches series.


5RB‘s Matthew Nicklin (instructed by Olswang) represented Channel Four.


Click here for the 5RB case report.