Tom Stephens interview, II
Those of us involved in the editorial decision-making at the BBC this week have read the comments to my earlier entry on this blog. Clearly nothing I say at this point is going to change many people's minds.
What I would stress on the issue of potentially prejudicing any future trial is that we do not believe the decision to broadcast the interview has in any way done this. Our legal advice was very clear. There has be a substantial risk of serious prejudice and the interview we transmitted, in which Tom Stephens gave his own account of events, did not constitute this.
In terms of the decision to broadcast, I can only reiterate how the position had changed between the time of the original conversation and the point at which we broadcast it. By that time, Tom Stephens' identity was prominently in the public domain, he had been substantially quoted and pictured in a front page story in the Sunday Mirror, the full conversation he had with our reporter was available to the police and he had been arrested.
It is worth reflecting on how it would have been viewed in some quarters, if given all those changes, we decided to keep from the public an extremely relevant piece of description and insight. A rather different group of critics would undoubtedly have accused us of deliberately withholding relevant information when there was no legal reason to do so, despite the fact that an extraordinary change in circumstances had taken place since the recording.
The conclusion we reached was based on all of these considerations weighed carefully against the arguments pointing in the other direction. We continue to believe we made the right judgment.