Section 8: Reporting Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
Dealing with Criminals and Perpetrators of Anti-Social Behaviour
Any proposal to interview a criminal active in, or wanted in, the UK must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards. Interviews should only proceed if they are clearly editorially justified, for example by eliciting important information or insight.
When interviewing criminals, care must be taken to minimise the potential distress this may cause to victims of the crime or their relatives.
Interviews with active or convicted criminals must not glamorise wrongdoing, celebrate the flouting of the judicial process or reveal the detail that would enable a crime to be copied.
Contact with escaped prisoners or people wanted by the police may in some circumstances constitute a criminal offence. Any proposal to contact or interview such people must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards and Programme Legal Advice.
Internationally, there are different definitions of crime and a criminal. In some countries, for example, political dissidents and activists are defined as criminals, but interviews with them can be important in providing a full understanding of events. However, for people motivated by personal gain from their criminal activities we must apply the same principles as in the UK.
The BBC does not normally make payments, promise to make payments or make payments in kind, whether directly or indirectly (such as through fixers or intermediaries), to criminals, or to former criminals, who are simply talking about their crimes. In general the same should apply to families or relatives of criminals or former criminals. This is to protect our reputation, and the credibility of our interviewees and sources, as well as respecting the sensitivities of the victims of crime.
Any proposal to pay criminals, former criminals, their families or their associates (directly or indirectly) for interviews or other contributions relating to their crimes, must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards. Payment of an actual fee will only be approved for a contribution of remarkable importance with a clear public interest which could not be obtained without payment. In such cases, only actual expenditure or loss of earnings necessarily incurred during the making of a contribution will normally be reimbursed. Note that this is not intended to inhibit the rehabilitation of criminals or prevent payment to people with a criminal conviction who are making a contribution not about their crime.
People who may not have committed a crime but whose behaviour is clearly anti-social must not normally be paid for interviews or other contributions about their behaviour. Nor normally must people whose activities have attracted such notoriety that any payment might be inappropriate, regardless of the nature of the contribution. Any proposal to make such payments, including payments in kind, must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.
Interviews with Prisoners
Prior to visiting a UK prison and conducting an interview with a prisoner for broadcast, content producers should normally seek permission from the UK prison authorities. Any proposal to enter a UK prison without permission must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.
Prior to visiting an overseas prison and conducting an interview with a prisoner for broadcast we should normally ask permission from the prison authorities. Any proposal to enter an overseas prison without permission must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independents to the commissioning editor, who may consult Director Editorial Policy and Standards. If approved, the relevant World Service Head of Region and Head of Newsgathering should be informed.
It is always advisable to contact Programme Legal Advice when proposing to interview prisoners overseas because of the different legal systems that apply in different countries.
Prisoners may have access to public telephones and mobile phones, though their use may be restricted by prison rules. The following proposals for phone interviews must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independents to the commissioning editor, who may consult Director Editorial Policy and Standards:
- inviting a prisoner to initiate a call for broadcast purposes from a public or mobile telephone in prison
- broadcasting an unsolicited, pre-recorded call from a prisoner which was not referred before it was recorded
- broadcasting any live call from a prisoner.
In the case of prisoners convicted of serious crimes, particularly violent crimes, due consideration must be given to ways of minimising the possible distress that an interview might cause to a victim or victim's family.
Paedophiles and Other Sex Offenders
When paedophiles and other sex offenders have served their sentences and been released back into the community, strong passions can be aroused in the place where they live. We should report such matters where there is a clear public interest while trying to avoid the following possible consequences:
- incitement or facilitation of vigilante action
- mistaken identity
- driving the offender underground away from supervision where he or she is far more likely to reoffend
- unjustified infringement of an offender's privacy
The BBC will normally only consider broadcasting the names or pictures of paedophiles or sex offenders who have served their sentences and been released from prison where the police have made these details public. Publication by other media is not a sufficient justification in itself. Any proposal to name a convicted paedophile or other sex offender, when their name has not been made publicly available by the police, or to broadcast pictures of them, must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.
When reporting on paedophiles and other sex offenders or when exposing potential paedophiles or sex offenders it is normally reasonable to name the town or city where they live. However, we should generally avoid giving information that could reveal their exact location. We should also consider consulting with the relevant police force if we intend to reveal their location or show a picture, to enable the police to address management issues in relation to the victim, the victim's family, the offender and the offender's family.
Interviews with paedophiles or other sex offenders must be clearly editorially justified. Care should be taken to minimise potential distress an interview may cause to their victims or victims' families. Any proposal to interview a paedophile or other sex offender who has been convicted of serious offences, in prison or on release from prison, should be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independents to the commissioning editor, who may also consult Director Editorial Policy and Standards.
When someone in our output is clearly involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour the BBC will normally reveal their identity. However, there may be occasional circumstances when it is important to disguise identities. These include:
- legal reasons, such as possible contempt of court or defamation
- protecting a source or sources
- safety reasons, either in the UK or abroad
- identification would be disproportionate to the wrongdoing
- where we are exposing anti-social or criminal practice but the individuals involved are simply illustrative of the behaviour, for example when secretly filming for consumer or social research
- where we are exposing anti-social or criminal practice but the individuals involved are not sufficiently culpable or responsible for their actions.
Any proposal to grant anonymity to someone seeking to evade UK law must be referred to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.
Children and Young People
A clear editorial justification is required for the broadcast of material related to the identity of anyone under 18 who is involved as a potential defendant in a court case before proceedings are commenced. There may also be legal restrictions once proceedings are active. Where there are active proceedings Programme Legal Advice must also be consulted.
(See Section 18 The Law: 18.9)
When considering whether or not to identify children and young people involved in anti-social or criminal behaviour, we should take due account of their interests. Consideration should be given to the age of the child or young person, the nature or seriousness of the behaviour and the possible consequences of identification. We should not normally identify children when featuring such behaviour to illustrate a practice, unless there is a clear editorial justification. Always seek advice from a senior editorial figure, or for independents the commissioning editor, if you are unsure how to proceed.
Advice on the identification of a child or young person with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) or involved in court proceedings is available from Programme Legal Advice.