New judgment in ‘MI5 agent’ case

A final judgment has been released in the AG v BBC ‘MI5 agent’ case which confirms the scope of information that the BBC is able to broadcast.

The injunction order will contain a general provision prohibiting publication of information which directly or indirectly identifies X, the alleged MI5 agent who is alleged to have physically and psychologically abused two female partners. Chamberlain J held that there is no need to supplement that order by specifying particular categories of information where disclosure would be identifying, such as “X’s appearance”, and doing so would impose an unjustified interference with the BBC’s freedom of expression.

However, in a separate private judgment, Chamberlain J ruled on whether the BBC could publish particular pieces of information that were the subject of “crystallised pursuit” between the parties. This was necessary in part because the BBC was not privy to ‘closed’ evidence which had been presented in the closed material procedure.

In the public judgment, Chamberlain J confirmed that the correct approach in applications of this kind is to assess the risk of identification by groups which might wish to harm the individual. He also confirmed that the general approach was to permit media organisations to make their own judgments on what falls within the terms of a court prohibition.

The BBC is planning to run the story in the coming days.

Adam Wolanski QC and Hope Williams acted for the BBC.

The public judgment is available here.