“24 Hours in Police Custody”: is Channel 4 breaching privacy rights?

The television series "24 Hours In Police Custody" recently returned to Channel 4.  The programme is produced using camera footage taken during real-life policing operations, including arrests in peoples' homes and video taken in police custody.

We are aware that individuals may have been filmed without their consent to feature on the programme, and this has included in some cases 'doorstepping' by camera crews and filming in individuals' homes.  The programme also appears to be sensationalising the details of peoples' arrests - going beyond mere factual reporting.

Are Channel 4 entitled to obtain and use this footage in such a way?  The legal issues involved in these cases are complex.  Although Channel 4 enjoy a degree of journalistic freedom, they are required to weigh this up against the intrusion into the private lives of those who are featured on the programme, as well as the privacy of their families.  The right to respect for private and family life is protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and under the English law of misuse of private information, as well as data protection laws.

Filming in these circumstances is likely to cause significant distress to the individuals involved.  Many individuals featured and named on the programme will also be concerned by the potential for repercussions from those that have seen the programme.  This will apply not just to those who have been filmed but also their families, which might include children, who have done nothing to warrant such an intrusion into their lives.

If you or a member of your family has appeared on the programme, or have reason to believe that you will be shown in an upcoming episode, and are seeking legal advice, please contact us.  If you have been shown it may be possible to bring a claim for misuse of private information.  In the case of upcoming episodes, time is of the essence and it may be possible to obtain an injunction to prevent broadcast. 


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