A court has banned the BBC from broadcasting a film about last summer's riots. The film, about the experiences of rioters during the disturbances, was due to be broadcast on BBC2.
The two part series is a dramatisation based on the testimony of interviews conducted for the Guardian and London School of Economics research into the disorder. It features actors who play anonymous rioters speaking about their experiences of
the riots last August.
In a blog posted before the film was pulled, a BBC producer on the project said that using the important and illuminating interviews in the drama would provide insight into why and how the riots had happened .
The BBC did not give details about the nature of the court order.
Update: Murder trial judge banned documentary over possible issues of sub judice
20th July 2012. See article
A judge prevented the BBC from broadcasting two documentaries about last summer's riots without having watched the films -- and later prevented the media from reporting his injunction.
Mr Justice Flaux, who was presiding over the murder trial of eight men who were acquitted at Birmingham crown court on Thursday, made the injunction on the grounds that the film raised issues which echoed arguments put before his jury.
He used an unusual power under section 45 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, which in some circumstances grants crown court judges the same powers as those used by the high court, to prevent the film from being broadcast.
The BBC and Guardian had sought to challenge the ruling, on the grounds that the films made no reference to the case being considered by the jury and did not even mention rioting in Birmingham.
However, the judge rejected the appeal, saying the films touched on issues related to his case, and if he were to allow the films to be broadcast, jurors could potentially have social contact with others who watched the programmes.
The end of the trial rendered the orders redundant.
Update: Disquiet about censorship
21st July 2012. See article
. Thanks to Nick
The BBC has spoken about a court order that banned it from showing two drama-documentaries about last summer's riots, as legal experts questioned the
excessive injunction. In a statement, the BBC said:
The BBC was of the firm view that as the programmes did not contain any reference to the incident which was the subject of the trial their broadcast could not have affected the trial's outcome.
As makers of current affairs programmes we felt this was a critical point regarding the freedom of the media to discuss matters that are of general public interest. We were disappointed by the judge's ruling which prevented the programmes from
being broadcast until the jury returned its verdicts. Now that has happened, we are pleased to be able to show the programmes.
Legal experts have also said the injunction raises troubling questions about the freedom of the media to report on issues in the public interest. Media law expert David Banks said:
It is very worrying in that it effectively negates the section 5 'discussion of public affairs' defence in contempt of court which is at the heart of the 1981 act and which balances freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. I think
the judge was wrong in saying the right to a fair trial outweighed the interest in broadcasting the programme -- there is a balance to be struck and one right does not automatically outweigh another.
David Allen Green, the legal commentator and head of media at law firm Preiskel & Co, said there was a strong public interest in the documentary being shown:
For a court to order a national broadcaster not to show such a programme really should only be done if there was direct evidence of prejudicial content. As it was, the film was anonymised and we are told it did not refer to the Birmingham
incident at all. If so, the court order was excessive and misconceived.