Woman with four personalities wins right to tell story

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The Independent Online

A woman who suffers from a disturbing condition in which she lives her life as four different characters has won the right for her story to be told.

In a ground-breaking ruling the High Court has allowed Pamela Edwards, 32, who requires 24-hour care to help her cope with the conflicting personalities that control her life, to feature in a television documentary to be screened next week.

The case has important implications for upholding the right to freedom of expression.

Mr Justice Munby, sitting in the family division of the High Court, is due to set out his reasons today for overruling the local authority responsible for Ms Edwards' care and the Official Solicitor who had both tried to stop the film being shown.

Twenty staff funded by St Helens local authority, at a cost of half a million pounds a year, look after Ms Edwards in her home in the North-west of England.

Because of the severity of her condition, known as dissociative identity disorder, Ms Edwards requires constant supervision to monitor her and her four different internal characters she has named as Andrew, Sandra, Margaret and Susan.

Psychiatrists believe she developed the condition, which afflicts four times as many women as men, as a way of escaping the reality of physical abuse and neglect she suffered as a child.

A Channel 4 documentary follows Ms Edwards' life as she struggles to manage the demands and foibles of the four different characters. One of the most disturbing features of the condition is when the characters fight among themselves, causing Ms Edwards to harm herself.

Last week the Official Solicitor, who represents the interests of those who cannot represent themselves, and the local authority tried to block the film on the grounds that Ms Edwards lacked the capacity to give permission to take part in the filming and that it amounted to a breach of her privacy under article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

But in a landmark judgment Mr Justice Munby, who has watched the documentary, set aside these concerns and instead gave greater weight to the right to freedom of expression.

In his judgment the judge will set out his reasoning in full. After the ruling, Louis Charalambous of Simons Muirhead & Burton, who represented Channel 4 at the hearing, said: "The extremely wide-ranging injunction sought against the world would have prevented Ms Edwards, her carers and therapists from talking about her past, her life and her care and stopped any media outlet from seeking or publishing such information."

Jan Tomalin, controller of legal and compliance at Channel 4, said: "This is a very important and sensitively made documentary and we are delighted that the court accepted that it can be shown and that Pamela's rights to freedom of expression have been recognised."

The film's director, David Modell, said the film had taken almost two years to make and was a fascinating and important exploration of the condition known as dissociative identity disorder.

"There is a lot of anger inside Pamela because of the abuse she suffered as a child. She has developed these personalities to disconnect herself from her body so that she can believe the abuse is happening to someone else.

"But this can be extremely disabling for her. The characters relate to each other in different ways so that it appears that she is hugging herself or deliberately pulling her own hair out."

One of Ms Edwards' characters, whom she calls Sandra, can be very controlling and appears to know what she is doing, says Mr Modell.

"But in reality she has just as little understanding of the outside world. This means that 'Sandra' often puts Ms Edwards in very dangerous situations."

Being Pamela will be screened on Channel 4 at 9pm on 8 June.