The debate on freedom of expression: Judge will be asked to view Nilsen film: Court to rule on broadcast of Nilsen interview

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A HIGH COURT judge is to be asked to view the controversial Central Television film containing an interview with the serial killer Dennis Nilsen, before deciding on a Home Office application that its transmission is a breach of copyright.

Mr Justice Ferris agreed yesterday to a Central Television application for the hearing of the Home Office action to be adjourned until tomorrow. The judge also extended an injunction banning any screening of the interview. Tomorrow's hearing is conditional on time being found and may be held on Monday.

The film, Murder in Mind, examines the use of offender profiling by the police in serial cases. The dispute between Central TV and the Home Office revolves around a seven-minute extract of almost four hours of filmed interviews between Nilsen and Paul Britton, a clinical psychologist, which took place over two days at Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight last year. The film's producer, Mike Morley, and a superintendent and detective chief inspector from Northumbria police, who were involved with Mr Britton in a research project for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), were also present. Mr Morley had spent some time filming the project.

Alexander Drysdale-Wilson, for Central Television, said that the company needed more time to prepare its case. It had no intention of 'sneakily' showing the programme, but did not object to the continuation of the interim injunction granted on Monday night because Central intended to preview the film to journalists; it is due to be broadcast next week.

Michael Silverleaf, for the Home Office, objected to the delays, saying that Mr Morley had spoken to the press about the case but not sworn an affidavit of evidence. Showing the programme to the judge would not be relevant and the court might not have time on Friday.

More details of the circumstances under which the interview occurred became clear last night. The Home Office accepts Central's assertion that it was fully aware that Mr Morley, to whom they had extended facilities in making the documentary, was present during the interview; but the Home Office argues that it was on the understanding that the film was being made by police for police use only.

The ban is sought on that basis because of alleged breach of copyright and the Home Office's policy of not allowing interviews with those convicted of very serious offences.

The Home Office belief is said to be that Mr Morley was present in 'a personal capacity' and was assisting in the interview because of his knowledge of serial killers following research in the United States. Mr Morley claims to have been in contact with Nilsen and may also have played some part in arranging the meeting.

Precisely who carried out the filming remains unclear. Athough the Home Office believe it made using police equipment, Central claim the tape they possess belongs to them and the film is said to be of 'professional quality.' The police are said to have been fully aware that the filming was for eventual broadcast.

Sources close to the film said last night that during the interview Nilsen retracts his detailed admissions to police that he murdered up to 16 young men and that the real figure was probably closer to the six named murders he was convicted of at the Old Bailey in 1983. Those who have seen the interview say Nilsen betrays no sign of compassion or remorse and appears 'like a calm and rational civil servant,' which he once was. Nilsen describes how he had to cut up the bodies of his victims because they had begun to smell and the process made him sick.

Leading article, page 24

Comments