Film-maker keeps options open on Fred West rights

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The Independent Online
A film version of the life of the mass murderer Fred West may still be made for television. The independent production company which has bought up the memoirs said yesterday that it had not ruled out exploiting the rights in future.

While there are no immediate plans to develop a film based on West's confession-tapes, memoirs and blue-movie videos, the Portman Entertainment Group has not ruled out the possibility of a television film or mini-series.

In a statement, John Banks, chairman of Portman, said yesterday that the rights were just one of many projects in the pipeline of the company which produced the television mini-series A Woman of Substance, was involved in financing the Hugh Grant film An Awfully Big Adventure, and acquired the British rights to Home and Away.

"A production company of Portman's size will acquire a considerable number of rights to material or stories during the course of a year, only a tiny number of which result in completed productions," said Mr Banks.

"When and if the topic comes before the board of Portman for full consideration, the sensitivity of the subject matter will, of course, be taken into account. It could only have been done in collaboration with a broadcaster - the BBC were originally interested - so the approach would have had to have been very sensitive."

The pounds 12,000 film-rights deal was brokered by Peter Harris, the Official Solicitor, whose task it is to maximise the financial return on the West estate. But the deal has led to a review of the law governing the duties of the Official Solicitor by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay.

Gary Streeter, Minister at the Lord Chancellor's Office, said the Official Solicitor had done nothing wrong in law, but the review had been announced because of public concern. He said that when he and the Lord Chancellor heard the news about the film rights being sold "we both felt this cannot be right ... and therefore we need to urgently review the score".