Attorney General wins bid for injunction to block BBC from identifying ‘MI5 informant’

Judge rules identifying ‘X’ could pose a threat to life

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 07 April 2022 12:58
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<p>The BBC has been blocked from identifying an alleged informant in their programme</p>

The BBC has been blocked from identifying an alleged informant in their programme

The attorney general has succesfully blocked the BBC from airing a programme that would identify a “dangerous extremist and misogynist” who is allegedly an MI5 informant.

The ruling means the show can be broadcast, but only in a way where the alleged covert human intelligence source (Chis) is not identifiable.

The BBC said it wanted to identify the man - known as “X” during the proceedings - as it believed he was “a danger to women” and the information could warn those considering a relationship with him.

But a judge ruled in favour of the attorney general on Thursday, saying it could present a threat to his life.

Mr Judge Chamberlain said: “The information about X’s identity, in the context of the allegation that he is a Chis who works or worked for MI5, is - as the BBC accepts - confidential.”

He added: “The attorney has satisfied me that, if it were to become publicly or widely known, there would be a real and immediate risk that X would be killed or seriously injured. In order to address that risk, extensive protective measures would have to be, and would be, taken.

“As a result of those measures, public disclosure of X’s identity would have no significant protective effect on women considering entering into a relationship or liaison with X.”

The judge accepted the ruling was “significant interference with the BBC‘s right to freedom of expression” but said it would not prevent the broadcaster from making allegations or raising what it considers “important issues of public concern”.

A BBC spokesperson said it was not the ruling hoped for but it was not prevented from reporting key elements of its story.

They said: “It is important to understand why the BBC believes this to be such important journalism.”

“We fought the case to try to tell as fully as possible two women’s stories and their experiences with X - his abuse of them and his use of his status as an MI5 intelligence source to coerce and terrify one of them - behaviour we say MI5 should have known about and that should have caused them to stop working with X.”

The BBC spokesperson said this was because the broadcaster considered these maters “of the highest public interest”, including coercive control and male abuse of power.

They added: “The BBC also believed identifying X was appropriate because we - and more importantly two separate women, who both experienced abuse at his hands and who have never met each other - believe he is a danger to women and identifying him could warn women considering, or currently in, a relationship with him.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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