The controversial television interview with the serial killer Dennis Nilsen was broadcast last night after the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the decision of the High Court to reject a Home Office attempt to ban screening.
In the Central Television documentary on profiles of offenders, Murder in Mind, shown on the ITV network last night, Nilsen is seen talking about his crimes in grisly detail and without remorse.
After viewing the documentary, Sir Thomas Bingham, the Master of the Rolls, and Lords Justices McCowan and Hirst refused the Home Office's appeal against the High Court's decision earlier yesterday, saying they could see no grounds to intervene. The High Court judge, Mr Justice Aldous, had said the programme could be screened in the public interest.
He said screening would make no difference to a full hearing on the case. The Home Office has claimed the interview infringes copyright and was for police use only; it says permission was witheld because of the policy of not allowing interviews with those convicted of very serious crimes and that broadcasting would cause distress to relatives of Nilsen's victims and enhance his notoriety. It alleges that Mike Morley, the producer, tricked his way into Albany prison to film the interview in conjunction with police and Paul Britton, a clinical psychologist. Mr Morley denied subterfuge, but admitted making an unauthorised copy of the tape, and claims he owns the copyright.
In the Court of Appeal, Michael Silverleaf, for the Home Office, said that if the programme was broadcast, the 'cat was out of the bag' and the point of a full hearing on the issues would be lost. 'If the court does not grant the injunction, the effect will be to condone what they have done. It would be a rogues' charter. It is putting someone who doesn't play the game by the book in a better position than someone who does.'
Peter Prescott QC, for Central, repeated that the interview was properly obtained and it was in the public interest for it to be broadcast. He said Nilsen had made a statement saying he thought the programme 'stinks' because it showed him in an unfavourable light and that a 'unique opportunity' had been missed.
After the second hearing, Central offered to insert a voice-over at the start of the programme warning that it contained unpleasant material which might cause distress. Outside the Court of Appeal, Mr Morley said he was 'delighted' at the decision, which was a victory for free speech. 'People will be able to make up their own minds. The information we put into the documentary . . . is in the public interest and that has been upheld on two occasions today.' He denied that the programme was sensationalist.
Earlier, Mr Justice Aldous said it was not a case about free speech or freedom of expression. 'The right of free speech does not involve the right of a serial killer to express his views.'
Although he accepted the principle of Home Office policy, he did not believe the interview would have the effect claimed. He agreed that most relatives would 'feel better if the loss of their loved one was in some way being used to prevent such evils'.
The public would have an insight into 'the cunning and sense of purpose of serial killers'.
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