Ofcom dismisses arrest privacy complaint

No expectation of privacy in publicly shot footage

A complaint about a BSkyB series, which pictured a man being questioned, searched and arrested by police has not been upheld.

Paul Mawson complained that an edition of the programme Road Wars, which followed police officers from a number of different police forces throughout the country carrying out their duties, infringed his son’s privacy by disclosing his full name and not obscuring his face.

Mr Daniel Mawson (Paul Mawson’s son) was filmed during a routine police check. He was then shown being questioned, searched and arrested by officers of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary for being in possession of four kilos of cocaine.  

Ofcom found that Mr Mawson did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that his actions (i) took place on a public highway in public view; (ii) the film crew had been filming openly not surreptitiously; and (iii) Mr Mawson pleaded guilty to possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply for which he received a custodial sentence.

The reasons offered by Ofcom are not free from doubt. Of particular significance is the absence from the ruling of any discussion of issues of proportionality, as discussed in Re S. There is also arguably a conflict between the ruling and guidance given in judicial review decisions on ‘naming and shaming’ such as R (Ellis) v Chief Constable of Essex Police [2003] EWHC 1321 (Admin).