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The Tom Stephens interview

Adrian Van-Klaveren Adrian Van-Klaveren | 09:37 UK time, Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Last week a BBC News reporter spoke to Tom Stephens in Ipswich. Their 36-minute conversation was recorded but was intended for background and not for broadcast.

Following Tom Stephens' arrest on Monday, we took the decision to transmit the interview on the basis that there had been an exceptional change in circumstances. The anonymity, which Mr Stephens had sought to preserve by making the interview for background only, no longer applied. His name and many other details about him were very much in the public domain.

We felt there was a compelling public interest in letting the public hear what he had to say. He knew all five of the murdered women, two of them well. He had much to say about the world of drug dealers and financial pressures in which they lived. On balance it seemed to us to be wrong to deny people the opportunity to hear his thoughts on the events of the past few weeks.

Of course, we reflected long and hard about the legal and ethical issues this interview raised. We are confident that nothing we have broadcast could prejudice any future trial. We also reached the conclusion that nothing we broadcast could reasonably be expected to impede the ongoing police investigation. A full copy of the interview had been made available to the police.

Ultimately our judgement was based on what we felt would be right for our audiences - should there be an opportunity to hear the interview or did it remain inappropriate to broadcast something recorded six days earlier on a different basis? In the very rare circumstances of this case, we took the decision to share Tom Stephens' account.


  • 1.
  • At 11:08 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • christine wrote:

if think the bbc were right in broadcasting this interveiw it is only fair that the public see this and i hope that the killer of these women is found before christmas to put both the pulic and the girls familes' minds at rest!

  • 2.
  • At 11:11 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Myles Francis wrote:

I am staggered by the claim that it was felt that the interview could be in no way prejudicial. Potential jurors could hardly escape seeing this information which links Stephens to all 5 victims. How can they be expected to put such information to one side?

  • 3.
  • At 11:26 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

"ultimately our judgement was based on what we felt would be right for our audiences"

Should it not be based on what is right for justice - firstly in ignoring the wishes of the interviewee, but most importantly, on not prejudicing any possible later trial?

The audience should come well done the list of priorities here.

  • 4.
  • At 12:21 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The BBC has trodden all over any sense of justice. Has anything been learned from the Hutton inquiry? The BBC seems no better than the tabloids.

  • 5.
  • At 12:22 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • DaveR wrote:

Do you anticipate that future background interviewees will be less forthcoming, knowing that if they become involved in a public matter then their "not for broadcast" interview may well be broadcast anyway, without their consent?

I must say that I would be inclined to feel that it was improper of the BBC to broadcast the interview.

It will obviously affect the outcome of any trial. It has probably been heard by a large number of people, and will have impacted on their opinion of this man and the case.

  • 7.
  • At 12:24 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

On this occasion I think you've got it totally wrong. I am completely unpersauded by the "public interest" argument - I can't see any. Sure the public is interested, but that's not the same thing.

If they guy did it, well the public interest will be served by the justice system alone, we don't actually need to know what he said last week.

If he wasn't involved well you've spent a day splashing is name, face, biographical details and an in-confidence interview all over the news, to what end?

The second arrest today shows the story is perhaps more complicated than we might think. I would think the BBC would do well to reign back its increasingly tabloid instincts and serve the public interest with less sensation.

  • 8.
  • At 12:25 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

"The anonymity, which Mr Stephens had sought to preserve by making the interview for background only, no longer applied."

In whose judgement? Did Mr Stephens change his mind about anonymity and agree to let you broadcast the interview, or was that a unilateral decision by the BBC?

It would be really good if you could clarify that rather important point.

  • 9.
  • At 12:27 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

Adrian, it's your call. If it doesn't prejudice a future trial, then you made a sound journalistic decision in the best traditions of your profession. If it does, then I hope you'll do the right thing.

  • 10.
  • At 12:27 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Edward wrote:

This is totally unacceptable of BBC. If reporters tell you they will protect your identity and then go ahead and reveal your identity without the consent of the person in question, who can trust them again? I for one won't.

  • 11.
  • At 12:28 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Bradley wrote:

How many people really are investigative when it comes to the media?? Very, very few... I am glad the BBC are being criticised for this interview and the amount of photographs that have been used to show this man.

Particularly the photo with the 'sinister eye paint'. No it's paint. People are spoon fed what they are told, and the BBC are very aware of this

  • 12.
  • At 12:28 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Nigel wrote:

You are claiming that you decided to broadcast this interview because it was in 'the public interest'. I am rather more inclined to believe that you decided to show it as a 'scoop' for the BBC.

I fear any decisions taken about the interview were more concerned with audience share than 'public interest' or with any thought to due legal process.

  • 13.
  • At 12:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Sam Jackson wrote:

Broadcasting this interview was clearly against the public interest when one considers the implications of subverting the judicial system over the short-term gratification of a news-hungry audience.

Has the BBC learnt nothing from the David Kelly affair?

  • 14.
  • At 12:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Kevin wrote:

"We felt there was a compelling public interest in letting the public hear what he had to say."

So what?

Let's not got all American and judge people guilty until proven innocent.

Very, very sloppy and inappropriate journalism - I'd have expected this from the The Sun or Sky, but not from the BBC.

Well, I for one will not be providing any information to the BBC on a supposedly confidential basis in future. How dare you break this man's trust while he remains uncharged with any crime.

  • 16.
  • At 12:33 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Archie wrote:

Forget justice for a minute: more straightforwardly, how can you reasonably say that a change in circumstances warrants your decision to waive the promise you gave to this man of anonymity? Did your reporter say to him that his words would be used only for background barring an exceptional change in circumstances? I think it highly unlikely. I'd like to know what you would have done in the David Kelly affair. You've broken the rules of the most fundamental relationship in journalism - that between reporter and source - because it gave you a good story, and I kinda think it stinks.

You may have reflected long and hard on the legal and ethical issues raised but in my opinion you came to absolutely the wrong decision.

You have made a major contribution to a media frenzy which will leave many people with the impression, rightly or wrongly, that Mr Stephens is guilty. It's another example of the BBC's descent into tabloid news values.

  • 18.
  • At 12:36 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Quite agree with Richard. There is a huge difference between the public interest and what the public is interested in.
I'm not convinced the media should have even been allowed to publish the name of and information about the man who's been arrested. He hasn't even been charged with a crime.

  • 19.
  • At 12:36 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Steven wrote:

From my point of view, it was very interesting to hear the interview and read so much about this 'suspect' but surely my interests are not as important as justice. This man is entitled to a fair trial - IF he is charged and brought to court - not trial by the media.

This is the sort of publicity stunt I'd expect from certain red bannered tabloids but not the BBC. Well, certainly not the BBC of old.

Im always surprised when Journalists talk about the public interest and use it as a justification for running something. Surely, interviews like this are broadcast because, for the BBC, it is a real scoop to have actually recorded an interview with this man. It attracts more viewers, its brings audience to their offering. I understand that the BBC is a public sector broadcaster, but they are engaged in a relentless ratings battle with other media, and its surely this that makes these choices a no brainer.

  • 21.
  • At 12:37 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Richard Curtis wrote:

I am appalled at the media coverage and in particular the broadcast of the suspects interview with the BBC. To say that its content would not be prejudicial may be legally correct but the fact that it has been so widely broadcast will mean that it will be virtually impossible for this man to receive a fair and unbiased trial. In the event that he is released without charge he will still be pursued by the media and be ostracised by the community in which he lives, ask anyone who has been falsely accused of, for example, rape. Mud sticks you know !!

  • 22.
  • At 12:38 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Kevin wrote:

I'm shocked that somebody, who is innocent until proven guilty, can have his wishes totally disregarded by the BBC. The BBC's defence is weak and whiney.

  • 23.
  • At 12:39 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Steven wrote:

Furthermore, if the audience is the BBC's priority, why are all comments fully moderated by the blog owner?

  • 24.
  • At 12:39 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Molly wrote:

What about broadcasting Stephens' MySpace page in its entireity, leading to untold grief for the people listed as his "friends"?

That's grossly irresponsible.

  • 25.
  • At 12:40 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

It seems like the BBC milked an exclusive interview for the sake of ratings!

  • 26.
  • At 12:40 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • wallis wrote:

Has the Contempt of Court Act been repealed? I thought Contempt of Court by publication occurs when there is (a) substantial risk of serious prejudice or impediment to particular proceedings; and
(b) the case is active.

In this instance the case is active because of an arrest, and I can't think of many potential jurors who, if this case comes to trial, won't have formed an opinion already, based on what they've seen or heard.

  • 27.
  • At 12:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Joe wrote:

Absolutely disgraceful.

  • 28.
  • At 12:43 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • P. Lewis wrote:

The moral of this story and the subsequent events is "don't talk to the media", as they have little compunction about backtracking on their stated commitments (verbal contract?) at interview time.

Fine, though, if the interviewer and/or editor subsequently feel that the police should be informed of the conversation. Strange, though, that the media often take a different stance when the police ask for information as to a reporter's source(s).

One can just about justify anything if one has a mind to. Duplicitous behaviour by the media? Surely not!

  • 29.
  • At 12:46 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jonathan wrote:

I suspect the BBC may have shot themselves in the foot with this one. How many people who are aware of this and want to remain anonymous are going to be happy to offer the BBC an interview?

  • 30.
  • At 12:47 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Michael Vigne wrote:

I question the public interest of broadcasting this interview. What greater good is served is this action subsequently renders the material inadmissable in court? How is anyone beneifitted if we cannot, with any degree of confidence, assemble a jury untainted with this information?

  • 31.
  • At 12:47 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Cecil Rhodes wrote:

I think you did the dirty on this guy. He spoke to you under condition of anonymity, a condition you recinded at your own behest! I did not expect this of the BBC and strongly suspected you would have a better reason than this for doing so. I think you've shot yourselves in the foot, here, for future interviews.

  • 32.
  • At 12:47 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Harry Sabbers wrote:

I agree with Richard's first comment here: Adrian Van-Klaveren's argument is flawed. It is wrong-headed to suggest that a decision taken based on what was considered "right" for an audience is a good decision.

This attempt at justification serves only to further diminish my view of the BBC's handling of this affair. I hope all involved are suitably ashamed.

  • 33.
  • At 12:48 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

I agree with Richard above, broadcasting pictures of police searching his house, his mothers house, carring out evidence bags etc all serve to predudice the audience anaganst this man. Please imagine what his life is going to be like even if he is not charged - might be intresting to an audience perhaps, but the decision to broadcast this interview was morally wrong.

  • 34.
  • At 12:49 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jeremy wrote:

"ultimately our judgement was based on what we felt would be right for our audiences"

Errr... didn't you mean to say...

"ultimately our judgement was based on what we felt would be right for our ratings"

  • 35.
  • At 12:49 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Smith wrote:

Dont insult our intelligence - the main reason the interview was broadcast was that you had one over on SKY. This was proved by the garish strap on the Six O'Clock News "BBC EXCLUSIVE"

It seems that journalistic law goes out the window all too often when the networks are competing to be more sensationalist than the other.

The BBC should refrain from this but it seems the standards adhered to by newsrooms up and down the country go out the window with "Network" coverage.

But still I'm sure there was much patting of backs and scratching of chins after the broadcast.

  • 36.
  • At 12:49 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • duncan Tamsett wrote:

The BBC is acting as if something the "public is interested in" is the same as something "in the public interest". These are extremely different and the Beeb is treating us as stupid if it thinks we dont know and cannot spot the difference. The sad truth is that we probably are stupid but the beeb, if it wants to be respected as a world class News presenting organisation, should not take advantage of our stupidity or of our lust for sensation. DO BETTER. Dont make pathetic excuses; APOLOGISE and recover some respect (some self-respect!!).

  • 37.
  • At 12:50 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

It is a pity that the BBC has to enter the ratings war at the expense of integrity. It's very tabloidal, sets a dangerous precedent and is disappointing.

I hope that it does not prejudice the case

  • 38.
  • At 12:50 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Tom wrote:

The police hadn't confirmed the name of the man they had arrested. For good reason: we presume innocent until proven guilty. Because of media outlets such as the BBC, the police's correct behaviour is without power to support this extremely important principle of our justice system. Broadcasting the interview was just another way of getting on the tabloid bandwagon and was shameful.

  • 39.
  • At 12:51 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

Years ago, journalism was a profession, one which one had to train for and work hard to get a job somewhere like the BBC. One had to show skill an integrity. Part of the training was learning how to handle informers or people assisting. An absolute golden rule for journalists was that they protect the identity of the people that help them - that's part of the deal, and something the BBC agreed it wutg this man. The same goes for anonymous tipoffs, or whistleblowers. The honour of journalism used to be that these were absolute rules - journalists have gone to court to protect that honour in the past. Now, the BBC decides it can get some senationalism into a story, claiming the "public interest" - when will journalists learn that the "public interest" does not mean "things the public might be interested in...".

It's simply disgusting that the BBC, and specifically Mr. Van-Klaveren have no such honour and cannot be trusted. This will deter people from assisting journalists in future.

  • 40.
  • At 12:52 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • malik wrote:

I haven’t seen the video but a friend talked of it last night, commenting on her perception of the demeanour and character of the gentleman in question…… I believe she would have been level headed and would have come to measured decision if called up to the jury for this case, having heard and seen all the evidence presented. But after last night....god help him if she's in that box. BBC - im not sure who you will have to worry about more if a mistrial is called - the families, the public or the police.

  • 41.
  • At 12:53 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • John Gammon wrote:

I can't see that public interest is a defence in broadcasting this tape. The only public interest is handing it over to the police as evidence. In future, when a BBC journalist wants to do an interview "not for broadcast", they'll have to say "unless circumstances alter, of course".

  • 42.
  • At 12:54 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Roderic Findlay wrote:

Does the B.B.C. ever admit it was wrong?

  • 43.
  • At 12:54 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Towner wrote:

Are you sure the fact that you had an exclusive interview with him didn't influence your decision? If not - why was the interview heavily trailed as 'exclusive'

  • 44.
  • At 12:55 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • David Cutts wrote:

If you had a background interview with this man and published it after his arrest this is both potentially prejudicial and against your agreement with him that it was background information. I don't see how you could justify this on his arrest alone. Sure, it is interesting, but its more interesting later if he is guilty and very poor journalism if he is not.

  • 45.
  • At 12:55 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Robert Hustwayte wrote:

Only time will tell if the broadcast of parts of the interview affect the outcome. What I thought much more inappropriate was the use by the reporter in the BBC 6 o'clock news yesterday evening of the word 'infamous' to describe the street that this man lived in. Mr Stephens had been arrested - not charged, not appeared in court, not found guilty, not sentenced yet the street had already become 'infamous.' The press had already tried and convicted and perhaps it is this attitude which ultimately would affect the ability of a jury not to be influenced. So BBC please get a perspective!! What adjective will you use if indeed this man did commit these crimes.

  • 46.
  • At 12:56 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Emily wrote:

Hardly the first instance of a journalist willfully conflating 'public interest' and 'what the public are interested in', but depressing nonetheless.

  • 47.
  • At 12:56 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Darren wrote:

I think the BBC overstepped its mandate personally.

His name and his Myspace page is information that he volunteered to be published, but his interview with the BBC was expressely prohibited by verbal agreement not to be published.

You cannot ask someone to speak candidly off the record on a subject and then go back on that agreement and publish it simply to win mindshare.

This is a man's life we're talking about here. He hasn't even been charged for any offence yet and his human rights and privacy have been completely ignored.

I expected this sort of "guilty until proven innocent" journalism from the tabloids, not from the BBC.

If it transpires he IS innocent then what the BBC and others have achieved is to destroy the life of someone who is clearly already in a dark place socially and emotionally. Is THAT in the public interest?

  • 48.
  • At 12:57 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mark K Nicholson wrote:

Another 'exceptional change in circumstances' Mr Van-Klaveren is that another man has subsequently been arrested in relation to all five murders. Lets hope that your disregard for Mr Stevens requested anonymity (innocent until proven guilty) does not end up destroying the life of another person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What is right for the masses (audiences) does not necessarily take precedence over the rights of the individual - even in celebrity tv land.

I commented upon your broadcast decision on the blog A Tangled Web . The decision to broadcast this interview, which you admit was made for background only, is a typical example of the BBC's new motto, which put simply reads,
"We know best!"

  • 50.
  • At 01:08 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Sanjay wrote:

If I was to trust any media's judgement in a similar situation, it would be BBC's. Compared to the tabloid coverage, the BBC's is far more balanced.

  • 51.
  • At 01:09 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Gail wrote:

Commercially motivated sensationalism not public interest

  • 52.
  • At 01:20 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • John R wrote:

Why do these types of blog always end up along the lines of "We decided to broadcast the material but it's okay because we agonised about it for a while first"?

Let's hear more about the things you've decided not to broadcast where other media have done.

If there are any.

  • 53.
  • At 01:21 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • David K wrote:

I live and work in the USA and totally expect this "in public interest" excuse here, where trial by media is common place, but not from the BBC.

  • 54.
  • At 01:30 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • J M Deane wrote:

Mr Van-Klaveren, perhaps you could give us some more information on the assurances you gave to Mr Stephens about his anonymity, and why you broke them.

He is, after all, an innocent man who has not been charged with any offence. I would be keen to hear the ethical justification for your decision.

  • 55.
  • At 01:31 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

The BBC never says sorry. And they don't really listen. A lot of the criticism on this page has covered my gripes with the lovely tabloid 'British' Broadcasting Company, so there's not much more to add, other than - if there *is* a mistrail, who will be held responsible for releasing this evidence not just to the police, but into the public eye?

  • 56.
  • At 01:39 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

Irresponsible. Unethical. Disgusting.

Bang goes any integrity one may have associated with the BBC

  • 57.
  • At 01:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Pauline Fearn wrote:

I am glad so many were as surprised as I was by your decision.

Does anybody but BBC think it was right?

  • 58.
  • At 01:44 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Barnard wrote:

This exemplifies the problem with the mass media in the UK. Whilst insisting upon the necessity of a free press, the media continually demonstrate power without as shred of responsibility.

Do the decent thing Van Klaveran - don't offer excuses - offer your resignation.

  • 59.
  • At 01:47 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Shocking behaviour by the BBC

  • 60.
  • At 01:52 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Sue wrote:

Absolutely unbelievable. I echo others comments that this was a decision purely based on ratings.

  • 61.
  • At 02:00 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Garry Hood wrote:

Just out of interest, has the BBC received ANY support at all for this disgraceful decision?

  • 62.
  • At 02:10 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Don Mills wrote:

Not much I can add other than agreement that the BBC (an organisation I greatly admire in general) showed very poor judgement in this case. But my attention was caught by Mr Van-Klaveren's comment, "Of course, we thought long and hard" before broadcasting the interview. I wonder how long "long" was. Half an hour, perhaps?

  • 63.
  • At 02:15 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jonathan Mobey wrote:

The BBC have behaved shamefully, breaking their word to Tom Stephens and potentially prejudicing any trial.

As others have observed, 'public interest' is not merely 'what may interest the public'. It seems that on this occasion the commercial concerns of the BBC have trumped ethical ones. At the very least an apology is in order.

  • 64.
  • At 02:15 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Bazza wrote:

I am in agreement with most fair-minded people. This interview was broadcast solely on the grounds of attracting viewers.

In fact the entire coverage by BBC news has a tabloid-style tackiness about it. Everything from George Alagiah's pressurising of a police constabel about their failure to make an arrest to the camera peering at Tom Stephens's back garden and side windows has been crude and upsetting.

  • 65.
  • At 02:18 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • David wrote:

I think it is clear that "the public" who have responded to this have no doubt that the BBC have made a disastrous blunder in broadcasting this interview. Even those who think it was OK only justify it on the grounds that they should be allowed to hear it - nothing to do with the legal risks.

The BBC has had absolutely no regard for "the public interest" at all, merely seeing the chance of a scoop - one can just imagine the editorial conference about it! There can be no doubt whatsoever that the public interest is best served by the perpetrator of these crimes being brought to justice. The BBC has deliberately and knowingly put that at risk by this intervention.

I would not be surprised if this sort of behaviour in the end leads to legislation to curb the media - and not before time.

In the short term the BBC should consider what to do about Mr Van-Klaveren. It took very heavy handed action over its actions at the time of Dr Kelly's death. It should think very carefully about what action to take over this dreadful misjudgement.

While I had no problem with the BBC airing the interview I do feel the continued use of the word exclusive was totally unnecessary.

"Speaking to the BBC" would have been more than enough. Adding an exclusive just makes the output look tacky and tabloid, this is after all not the News Of The World. People are not stupid they can read speaking to the BBC and assume that only the BBC would have it.

Putting "exclusive" just makes the broadcast look like a sordid attempt to grab ratings. If the BBC management really thinks that by slapping EXCLUSIVE over things they will gain audience, and more importantly if they think thats what matters, we really are in trouble.

Fully support use of interview other than that

  • 67.
  • At 02:19 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Rikki wrote:

I am a BBC supporter and often stare in dismay at the various allegations or criticisms people throw at the BBC.

But in this case, the BBC has seriously dropped the ball.

Apart from anything else, Tom Stephens gave you an interview in confidence, and as it stands now he is an innocent man. If he is found guilty, then by all means broadcast it, but to go against the wishes of an innocent man who confided in you is shocking.

This seriously damages your credibility and is likely to damage your ability as journalists to expect people to give you information privately.

You need to think about your position on this, and I would hope you make a follow up post/broadcast to address the issues people have raised.

  • 68.
  • At 02:19 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Rory wrote:

In my view a serious misjudgement by the BBC, borne out by the massive weight of opinion already published on this page.
I can only hope that the eventual outcome of the Ipswich investigation and any subsequent legal action delivers proper justice to Mr. Stephens, whether that means conviction or exhoneration.

  • 69.
  • At 02:19 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Roger Davenport wrote:

It was another error of judgement by the BBC.

Mr. Van-Klavaren justifies by saying that there is "compelling public interest", but chooses to ignore the interests of justice. He says he thought "long and hard", but apparently didn't think long enough to seek legal advice. His says that he thought it "right for our audience", which appears to put ratings before the cause of justice.

  • 70.
  • At 02:22 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Joe Marshall wrote:

Given that opinion on this forum has universally been contrary to the BBC's judgement, it would be good and honest of the BBC for, at a minimum, Adrian to return to attempt to address the points raised here - and preferably for its future broadcast coverage to highlight the strongly critical feedback of its cynical approach to date.

  • 71.
  • At 02:22 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Loke Min Foo wrote:

I used to think that BBC is the role model for the media in my country. Not any more.

  • 72.
  • At 02:23 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Neil wrote:

I think it's inappropriate to broadcast an interview that was given for background use only. However, the reaction here seems extraordinary. I don't think the broadcast will prejudice any jury — all the information broadcast seemed pretty basic. The fact that he knew all the victims would almost certainly come out in court within the first 5 minutes of any trial.

  • 73.
  • At 02:25 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Raymond Morrison wrote:


What if it turns out that Tom Stephens is innocent? How does he face the world after this?

The BBC is no better than the tabloid newspapers and has become the Sun of the TV broadcasters.

i find it profoundly depressing that the bbc should indulge in such sensationalism.

we're told that the bbc is not in a ratings war with the independant channels, yet it finds it necessary to renege on a specific agreement that the interview will not be broadcast in its attempt to bolster its ratings.

at a time when certain politicians feel that they have the bbc by the throat (after the hutton white-wash), the bbc did not need to hand them another reason to control its output.

the bbc is a public service broadcaster, not some tabloid rag. it's time it acted like it.

  • 75.
  • At 02:32 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Stephanie wrote:

Public interest and something that the public would find interesting are NOT the same thing. The BBC should know better.

  • 76.
  • At 02:35 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Amy wrote:

So, following this man's arrest, his accounts of the victims' "drug dealers and financial pressures" suddenly became more interesting? Erm, how?

You seem to justify your decision by saying:

We felt there was a compelling public interest in letting the public hear what he had to say. He knew all five of the murdered women, two of them well. He had much to say about the world of drug dealers and financial pressures in which they lived. On balance it seemed to us to be wrong to deny people the opportunity to hear his thoughts on the events of the past few weeks.

But this was also the case before Mr Stephens was arrested. So what changed?

I am usually a supporter of the BBC, but this is shameful.

It's remarkable to note that in 30 comments not a single one buys the BBC's line of this being in the public's interest.! The BBC would do well to take a reality check on their lofty liberal concept of the public's interest being the overriding priority. The course of justice is what matters here and I should think few licensce payers will be impressed that the Suffolk Police should have to waste time writing letters to the media to remind them of their responsible oblitigations..

There is one additional point I would make; who revealed Tom Stephen's name in the first place? Some American media outlets say it's the BBC (while the British media typically say 'sources') and the BBC would certainly be in the right place having conducted this interview, would they not?

It almost seems to me that the BBC release the name, officially or not, the media picks up on it and then raise their hands saying "Oh well the cat's out of the bag now, we may as well run with our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW."

  • 79.
  • At 02:38 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Nick Jones wrote:

I am absolutely disgusted at the BBC. What if this man is innocent. What about innocent until proven guilty.

  • 80.
  • At 02:38 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Neill wrote:

That's the guts of 50 responses to Mr Van Klaveren's attempt to jusitfy the broadcasting of the interview, and not one in agreement with him so far. Thank goodness the public seem to have more sense than he does.

But will the Beeb admit it was wrong? Of course. Just as soon as hell freezes over.

Disgraceful piece of 'journalism'.

  • 81.
  • At 02:40 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jim wrote:

This is a terrible editorial decision - the arrest of this man was not sufficient in itself to justify potentially prejudicing a trial, and betraying the not for broadcast agreement you had with Tom Stephens.

The BBC normally has an image of a higher standard of journalism compared with other media - decisions such as this really do damage to that image.

Your judgment should not ultimately be based on what you feel would be right for your audience, as you have stated. Good journalism is much more than chasing ratings and getting an 'exclusive' by whatever means. It is sad to see that you apparently need respondants to your blog to explain to you the difference between an interested public and the public interest...

  • 82.
  • At 02:40 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

This interview has been published for one reason and one reason only, ratings! The BBC has almost certainly now prejudiced this case, and for what? Sensationalist journalism?

Justice for those 5 women is the only thing that matters here, not the BBC's ratings.

  • 83.
  • At 02:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Kieran wrote:

Quite frankly, broadcasting details of his identity when he has only been arrested, let alone charged, tried, or found guilty, is gutter journalism. The interview on top of that just makes things worse. It saddens me that the BBC stoops to such lows.

  • 84.
  • At 02:45 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • AJM wrote:

I am usually one of the first to leap to the defence of the BBC, but I'm afraid I can't do so in this case.

True, strictly speaking, there has been no contempt of court as the interview was made public before the man has been CHARGED (rather than arrested). However, it cannot fail to prejudice the defence if this goes to trial. And the arrest of a second man in connection with the murders raises some key questions about the yesterday's media-fest which seemed to have the first suspect already wrapped up and ready for prison before any charges were made.

First of all, the BBC's decision in this case is wrong because it does not serve justice nor the public interest. Secondly, as a knock-on effect, it is likely to make gathering background information much more difficult for BBC reporters from now on.

Shame - the BBC was always perceived as having more integrity than the tabloids.

  • 85.
  • At 02:46 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Annette wrote:

I can't help thinking that if Sky, ITN etc had also had the interview with Mr Stevens, the BBC editorial team would have made a different decision and taken the moral high ground.

Could Adrian Van-Klaveren explain how, exactly, the public interest is served by the release of the interview? I can't say I feel any better off for it, quite the opposite!

  • 86.
  • At 02:46 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Williams wrote:

Should be Mr Stevens be cleared of any involvement in this case, one would hope that he claims a significant sum of compensation from the BBC's blatant disregard for his privacy.

  • 87.
  • At 02:46 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

There is a feeling that the once impeccable reputation of the Beeb has been undermined by a surplus of journalists all anxious to make their mark by any means: even by using the tactics of the tabloids.
This is a notable example. The reputation of the Beeb has been badly damaged. The confidence of the public in giving information to the Beeb has been badly damaged.
The top echelons of the Beeb are either sympathetic to this sort of behaviour or lack control.

I'm convinced you're wrong. I'm convinced you're wrong even to name the man.

If the justice system allows women to make accusations of rape, and retain their anonymity even if they are not proven, or found to be false, on the basis of protecting their identity, then surely to be implicated in a murder enquiry is a much more dangerous character slight.

I know that INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY is becoming an increasingly unfashionable concept in the modern world, but that doesn't make it wrong, and you shouldn't follow just because the tabloids and other trash media are leading. Unless, of course, you're suggesting page 3 style newsreaders on the 6 o'clock news?

  • 89.
  • At 02:49 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Brenda Hobday wrote:

If he is innocent then the BBC will have destroyed his life, damaged their own long standing reputation and made a lot people reluctant to ever trust their word again.

If he is guilty then there is every liklihood that a good QC (paid no doubt by the state) will argue that the trial has been prejudiced by the publicity. And he then walks free?

It should not have been published, its serves no 'public interest' - its a 'no brainer'

Have you turned into The Sun over night? Ever since this story broke you've been doing some very odd things.

I've been disgusted with the whole of the coverage of this affair by the BBC. You have been acting like a bunch of starving dogs with the way you jumped all over this one. I can only assume that you are using this as an excuse to re-decorate the studio as everyone seems to be outside something, somewhere no matter how tiny the link maybe. You have ramped this story up as high as you can.

Now a second person has been arrested you could be in a tricky situation, what if it was not the first suspect? You've just tarred his name for life. Are you to do the same with the second suspect? It would seem so with reporters already using the "Police said there maybe more than one murder" route.

Give it a break and only give us the facts, I don't want to see reporters playing detective with wild guesses about an on going case.

Stuff the ratings, stick to what you "should" be doing.

  • 91.
  • At 02:52 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

As a "public service broadcaster" surely a really valuable service to the public would have been best delivered by taking a more principled and restrained position, rather than bowing to the "public interest" lobby which is, in truth, often more to do with morbid fascination?

The BBC got this very wrong.

I would also add that - to my mind - there have been various other interviews and associated coverage of events in Ipswich that I consider to have been unnecessarily intrusive and have given the impression of fishing for sensational scoops.

Let the police, CPS and justice system as a whole do their job unhindered.

I acknowledge that we live in a fast-changing world (not leasat in terms of technology), and therefore a review of media coverage of this case would not be out of place.

  • 92.
  • At 02:53 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Fiona J Scullion wrote:

i was concerned about the coverage of the man arrested over the murders in ipswich. whether this man is guilty or not the coverage is
inappropriate. i am pleased that the bbc lawyers have commented but regret that they did not prevent the coverage. i have always enjoyed the quality of bbc news reporting but the coverage of this incident reminds me of american fox news. not a route the bbc should be taking. i hope more thought will be given to coverage of this and other similar incidents in the future and there are no repercussions for those involved this time.

  • 93.
  • At 02:56 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Farrow wrote:

As a journalist myself, I know that it is very important for contacts to believe that when they say something is off the record, they can trust that it will remain so. Every action like the decision to broadcast an interview clearly given as background is a betrayal of trust, regardless of whether the interviewee is ultimately proven guilty or not, and makes it harder for other journalists not to be treated with even greater caution. You have confused the public interest (your defence for the broadcast) with the public's interest(an entirely different thing).

  • 94.
  • At 03:00 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

I sort of understand where Adrian's coming from but I think the horse has bolted and the damage has been done.

By broadcasting the interview, you've initiated vehement legal and political debate which I suspect, in the long term, can't help but constrain the boundaries of UK journalism. Normally this type of provocation should be celebrated but so soon after the last great examination of editorial decision making by Lord Hutton, it's probably counter-productive.

The decision shows a lack of understanding of the current media climate in the UK and a startling demonstration of how little the impact has been of Hutton at decision-making level: cue another prolonged and excrutiating bout of navel gazing by the BBC and their journalistic standards - just think of the tortuous columns in MediaGuardian!

If you want to push the boundaries in these sensitive days, be a bit more savvy and do it incrementally, rather than going for the big, ego-boosting scoop. In this day and age, I don't think it'll get you anywhere special.

Well, you may think you were justified, but you case is not made with the public. By 48 to 0 (at the time of writing), the public thinks you have made an apalling error. They have you bang to rights. You should apologise now.

  • 96.
  • At 03:05 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • jack thompson wrote:

I suppose we should be grateful that the BBC gives us this chance to criticise its editorial decisions. I doubt the Sun or even the Times and the Guardian would offer us a similar opportunity. But I'm afraid that doesn't justify the BBC's decision to broadcast the Stephens interview. It is self-evident that this has prejudiced a possible trial and those of us who once worked for the BBC as journalists were rightly told by our bosses at the time that anything that prevented a defendant from getting a fair trial should not be broadcast. There is enough bending of the rules governing people's legal rights by both government and media right now.

  • 97.
  • At 03:05 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • michael wrote:

Two problems here - firstly breaking jounalsitic trust and secondly possibly prejudicing a trial.

It is a shame that there is no alternative to the BBC website for news coverage because this is the sort of behaviour that would lead me to boycott an organisation.

Are you really happy to think that you are the type of person who's word carries no weight? I would be embarassed to admit I had made an agreement (verbal or ortherwise) with someone and then unilaterly decided to break it.

  • 98.
  • At 03:06 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • David wrote:

Of course the naming of the accused, his address and workplace and his video prejudice his trial. When I was arrested, charged and appeared in court on 4 occasions my name, address, work place were not broadcast anywhere. Therefore my trail happened with no media interest, just as 99.9% are. This man has very badly treated.

  • 99.
  • At 03:17 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Nick Carding wrote:

I am so sick of the BBC's self-righteous 'we're always right' posture when questioned over anything at all. Are you EVER wrong, I wonder?

This time you clearly are - by breaking the promise you made to a source, if for no other reason. That alone is unforgiveable, let alone the fact that you might just possibly have compromised the justice system.

No wonder your international reputation as a trusted news organisation - once unmatched - has in recent years deteriorated alarmingly. On current form you deserve no better.

  • 100.
  • At 03:21 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

I remember a certain weapons inspector who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity and this was maintained (at great pains) until his name was revealed by other means. Yet, this chap's request for anonymity was thrown aside at the drop of a hat...

  • 101.
  • At 03:26 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jon Willis wrote:

I don't usually comment on these kind of things, as I usually feel the BBC has got it right - but not this time. Way off.

Being 'confident' is not good enough - are you certain it won't prejudice a trial if it goes to that.

Given that this guy gave the interview in confidence, it seems certain that he said things to you that he wouldn't have said for public airing.

What possible 'public interest' could there be when the guy is already in custody under questioning?.

The message from this?

The BBC is no better than any other news organisation and cannot be relied upon to stay true to it's word. Don't trust the BBC and don't say anything that you are not prepared to hear broadcast on national TV.

Overall, It feels like the justification for the decision to air this interview was put together to support a desire to air it, rather than being a true assessment of whether it was ethically, morally and judicially sound to air the interview.

The BBC may gain viewing figures in the short term and no publiciy is bad publicity supposedly, but it only takes a few bad decisions to destroy a good reputation.

Something I learnt a few years ago was when you get something wrong, apologise - and fully. Anything else is perceived as arrogance.

  • 102.
  • At 03:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Manny wrote:

Would it not have been right and proper to wait a few days and see if Mr Stevens was released without charge before deciding to lynch him 'in the public interest' ?

If he's guilty you're going to muddy the judicial waters. If he's innocent you're going to look like a journalist out to make the most of any given opportunity.

Either way the trust in the BBC is now greatly diminished.

Bad judgement call guys, very bad indeed.

  • 103.
  • At 03:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Gene Rankin wrote:

The Beeb's flagrant disregard for common journalist's ethics (and astonishingly self-centered rationalization for breaking their word) makes me damned glad I live 3,000 miles away. One wonders whether any source (other than an atention-seeking one) will ever speak to the Beeb again.

  • 104.
  • At 03:34 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • GaryK wrote:

Weasel words to disguise the fact that the BBC effectively lied to Mr Stephens, and sacrificed its journalistic principles on the altar of sensationalism.

"Were you affected by this travesty? Do you have relatives or friends who were affected? Were you there and do you have digital photos you'd like to send us? Email us (we can't spare the weasels)."

  • 105.
  • At 03:35 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Chris Hayward wrote:

I was so relieved that read how so many people care enough to express their views on this issue to the BBC, and they have said just about everything I would say.

Only one word would I add to you, Mr Van-Klaveren: shame.

  • 106.
  • At 03:41 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

Bad form BBC. I suggest you research "contempt of court", "off the record" and the difference between "the public is interested in" and "public interest"

  • 107.
  • At 03:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

BBC News' attempts to justify this are pretty pathetic. You promised that you would not reveal the contents of the interview. That his identity had become known is beside the point.

Woodward and Bernstein would have had a great story if they had revealed the identity of Deep Throat, but they never did in thirty years. A BBC journalist's promise is valid for about two days, apparently.

  • 108.
  • At 03:48 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Marianthy wrote:

I am one more person who believes that this decision is absolutely shameful for a medium such as the BBC. I have been berating for years the media in my own country which behave in this un-journalistic fashion, judging and trialling people in public who have not been proven guilty by a court; also publicising material that was entrusted in confidence. I thought that BBC valued integrity and was powerful enough not to compete for ratings at such a low level.

Furthermore, it is not in the interest of the public to make the interview unusable in court, especially since BBC did the right thing in submitting it to the police first.

The "Exclusive" tag on this broadcast was indeed enough to render this blogpost a silvertongued embellishment of the ugly truth.

  • 109.
  • At 04:02 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Timothy Astin wrote:

I think you were wrong to release the interview. 1) You have broken the ethics of journalism by using an interview given for one purpose in a different way. 2) If suspicion is removed from Mr Stephens , then you have broadcast his links to the prostitutes in exactly the way he requested you avoid. 3) If Mr Stephens is brought to trial you have prejudiced the trial by the timing and manner of your release. It inevitably gives the impression that the BBC thinks that this man is guilty of the crime of murder, that you are prepared to break the conditions agreed with him, and that you consider that the interview itself is "in the public interest".

  • 110.
  • At 04:05 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • James wrote:

If the BBC receives material on condition that that it will not broadcast, and the BBC agrees, then it should not broadcast material. If it cannot keep this promise then it should make this clear at the start. The only justifiable changes in circumstances are where the individual concerned gives consent or where the BBC is required to do so by law.

In cases like this it is hard to see how the BBC can justify publishing any material after it hands it over to the police. Where the individual is innocent or guilty there is surely at least some speculating and at worst risk of jeopardising a fair trial. Has the BBC herd of the data protection act or the contempt of court act regarding “active” investigations?

Then there are questions of properly representing what the BBC has learnt. "He had much to say about the world of drug dealers and financial pressures in which they lived". So why had other reporters who quoted form the interview failed to mention this? Come on.

The public interest, surely, is in allowing the police to investigate, and trial in a court of law. Of course some of the details were in the public domain, in this case there was a website, but I suspect if all details were in the public domain it would not have been referred to as an ‘exclusive’. Perhaps the BBC should have thought a little longer or a little harder in this case.

  • 111.
  • At 04:05 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jez Lawrence wrote:

I completely agree with the first poster. The audience do not have a 'right' to know when there is a potential investigation. You aren't a commercial corporation, you're a public one, so the public interest should be closer to your heart than the audiences. They are NOT the same thing and after however many decades of operation, the Beeb should know that by now.

The key message here to anybody that gives off the record interviews with journalists is don't. Sure, you'd expect BBC researchers to be better than average hacks, but clearly that's no longer the case.

If it turns out Mr Stephens is innocent of murder then you've got a lot of questions to answer. If he's not even charged people will demand heads roll at the BBC. Rightly so.

The man seems like a sad case, who may or may not be involved with the deaths. I'm not sure I'd imply (by televisual association) that he's the murderer, but clearly you know more about this stuff than mere members of the public.

Who, coincidentally, will be sitting on his jury with your 'interview' in the public domain...

  • 113.
  • At 04:21 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mike M from Leeds wrote:

I have long supported the excellent work of the BBC and its journalists - it is, more often than not, investigative journalism of the very highest order and consistently outstrips the competition.

However, as an experienced reporter and trainer of reporters, I am disappointed in the decision to show the video of an uncharged suspect in a multiple-murder investigation.

Even a first year journalism student would know that such actions are at extreme risk of breaching the spirit of the Contempt of Court Act and can fatally weaken a prosecution case - damaging the justice system and the reputation of the BBC.

Such decisions will always come down to a calculated risk and I would not expect an experienced editor to always play it safe. But in my opinion you have jumped on a bandwagon too soon and, even as you typed up your reasons for making it, your decision has been outpaced by events.

You will always have my support in your efforts, but I fear on this occasion you have made the wrong decision. I truly hope your attempt at a legal bluff does not get called.

  • 114.
  • At 04:35 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Cooke wrote:

Well, well, looks like the chickens have finally come home to roost !!!
In a previous post, I dared to suggest that Newsnight was the TV version of the tabloids & the BBC R4's Today was the radio version of the tabloids. And I was shouted down by fellow bloggers.
By broadcasting this interview with Tom Stephens, I do believe my assertion was correct all along.
The tabloids published Tom Stephen's identity. But the tabloids have a history of getting it wrong & getting into bother. I hope the BBC does get sued for contempt of court & they had better not use any money from the TV tax to defend themselves in court. If this doesn't prove conclusively that the BBC is not impartial, then I don't know what will.

  • 115.
  • At 04:35 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • T. Viney wrote:

This is absolutely wrong. It's not just the interview, but the news reports practically gave a brief summary of his life. The information broadcast went FAR beyond the public interest. This reeks of immoral and opportunistic journalism. Think of the effect this will have on the man if he is found innocent.

The comments here are representative of the public, and the majority clearly show that they do not think it was in their interest for the interview to be broadcast. Therefore the BBC obviously got it wrong, and the interview was shown because the editor felt it was in his and the BBC's interest. It appears that BBC News editorial decisions are not made on the basis of what is in the public interest. Instead, there appear to be an arrogant "the public does not understand journalism and we know best" attitude.

  • 117.
  • At 04:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Nick wrote:

It is apparant that the only motivation of the BBC was scoring a scoop. objectivly and rationally reporting the news seems to take second place to sensationalism and personal vanity of the news team.

I really do fear that these efforts of the media to drive the police investigation will prejudice any chance of a fair trial and correct conclusion. This all raises echoes of the Washington Sniper enquiry and the circus that evolved round that.

I would have hoped that the BBC would be the calming and moderate force in this, not leading the feeding frenzy!!

  • 118.
  • At 04:43 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Recruitgal wrote:

Innocent until proven guilty?

The BBC should not be in the business of 'trial by media'.

Whether this man is innocent or guilty of these crimes, he is entitled to a fair hearing. Instead, he is being lynched by a hysterical press. I wouldn't usually include the BBC in that group, but apparently it is so.

  • 119.
  • At 04:44 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Lucy wrote:

What has become of BBC News? Even setting aside the dumbing down over the last few years while you've been competing with Sky, this single instance has shown how low your once highly-regarded organisation is willing to stoop in order to increase its ratings. You have potentially damaged a trial and, in journalistic terms alone, you have betrayed the confidence of a source because YOU deemed the circumstances to have changed. What right do you have to judge that?

The way Mr. Van-Klaveren attempts to explain his decision screams of desperation. You must know you have got this one totally wrong. I am relieved and heartened to see so many posters here who share this opinion.

Utterly shameful.

(PS You say that my email address won't be displayed - can I be totally confident about that?)

  • 120.
  • At 04:58 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • James H wrote:

This is totally shocking. If an interview is for background only, that is how it should remain. Why should anybody ever trust the BBC ever again?

  • 121.
  • At 05:00 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Sheard wrote:

I am deeply saddened that the BBC should agree not to braodcast an interview and then break its promise. The BBC's judgement should not be "based on what we felt would be right for our audiences"; it should be based on what is right, full stop. And breaking your promise is not right. Shame on you.

  • 122.
  • At 05:05 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

When the BBC descends to the level of using the excuse "in the publici nterest" to reveal the name of an, as yet, innoncent man, I know we are in deep deep trouble.

I grew up thinking that the BBC could be relied upon to exercise good judgement in the content of news stories it released. Sadly it seems that it no longer the case, and the lurid journalism practised by the tabloids is the order of the day.

Like everyone else I want to see the murder caught and sentenced. But until such time as someone is arrested, tried, and found guilty, then please explain WHY it is in the public interest? It will help sell papers in the case of the tabloids - but even that argument fails here. Exactly what purpose does it serve to reveal the identity of this man?

  • 123.
  • At 05:10 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Karen wrote:

Perhaps it's worth pointing out that while everyone is castigating the BBC for 'shoddy' journalism and betraying the trust of this man, he had already given a full interview with the Sunday Mirror. He was clearly happy to talk to the press and the broadcast interview contained very similar details to his newspaper interview.

  • 124.
  • At 05:12 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Fiona wrote:

I was listening to Classic FM news yesterday aternoon and, although mention of an arrest was made, none of Mr Stephens' personal details were released, despite the fact that his name had already been given out by the BBC. This seems to me to be journalism with far more integrity. I can see no justification whatsover for such treatment of anyone, especially immediately before Christmas. I thought better of the BBC and am disappointed. I hope an apology will be forthcoming, and soon. In this country we are still innocent until proven guilty.

  • 125.
  • At 05:18 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • JT wrote:

Did you learn anything from the Hutton report? Im going to ask my MP yet again why I have to pay the licence fee - there are enough commercial news agencies that can behave like this without me subsidising another one.

  • 126.
  • At 05:19 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Jim Barley wrote:

So the interview with Tom stephens was broadcast "in the public interest". Surely it is in the greater public interest for the BBC not to publish ANYTHING which could prejudice a fair trial? Once an acquittal or conviction has been obtained through due legal process, by all means publish any material you have obtained.

  • 127.
  • At 05:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • John wrote:

Surely if the killer (whoever that may be)had confessed to a BBC reporter "in confidence" you'd have reported the information he (or she) revealed, but if the police had asked for the name, you'd have protected your source all the way to the European Court - just like you used to do with IRA & Loyalist terrorists.

It all goes to show that it's got nothing whatsoever to do with journalistic integrity, and everything to do with a ratings scoop.

If this man is completely innocent and is subsequently released without charge, he will find it completely impossible to recover his former life. No doubt he will have a very good case for substantial compensation because of your broken promise.

  • 128.
  • At 05:30 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Keith wrote:

I don't have anything new to add to the general thrust of the comments already made, I to was appalled to see the way in which this particular story has been handled by the BBC and the self serving justification by Adrian Van-Klaveren was enough to push me into registering my first ever complaint directly with the BBC.
Pure ratings chasing rather than professional journalism!

  • 129.
  • At 05:31 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Mr Van-Klaveren, I agree that the BBC has confused "the public interest" with "the public is interested in". This simple distinction is surely part of "Journalism 101". Whilst it is laudable that you are publishing these critical comments, I feel that a full public apology is required - preferably on your "front page".

If Mr Stephens is released and not charged, or else charged and found not guilty, then I hope that the BBC will offer him compensation for the damage that they have done to him by breaking their verbal agreement. If not, then Mr Stephens should sue the BBC for this damage.

It seems that I am with not just a majority but the totality of posters. I highly disagree with this decision.

Even so, I apreciate that we are given this forum for comment. I simply hope this overwhelming response is apreciated at the BBC.

  • 131.
  • At 05:45 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Melanie wrote:

Another case of trial by media. Absolutely unethical and unwarranted.

  • 132.
  • At 05:50 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Vogel wrote:

I feel that this is a terrible betrayal of trust and a terrible decision by the BBC. If they go ahead with the trial of this man, you have certainly damaged its chances of being fair; if on the other hand they do not, then you have contributed significantly to the destruction of this man's life. Referring to the mere fact that people might have liked to hear it is putting prurience above your duty to justice and to the individual.

  • 133.
  • At 05:50 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mat wrote:


In the new open and communicative style of the bbc, with interactive blogs etc, I think we would all appreciate a continuation of the debate by you, in light of these messages. Perhaps in the form of some deeper insight into the journalistic decision that, from an outsider's simplistic perspective, would seem like a straighforward breach of Mr Stephens' trust in your confidentiality, regardless of any external factors.

  • 134.
  • At 05:56 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Harding wrote:

Completely agree with all the posts here. It's now up to 65-0 (at the time of writing) against the BBC's decision to broadcast the interview. I think as an absolute minimum we would all like to see an apology on this website by tomorrow morning.

  • 135.
  • At 06:01 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Mark Morton wrote:

Even as a staunch pro-BBC supporter, I can't believe that you've flagrantly broken the law on this one.

  • 136.
  • At 06:02 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Rupert RG wrote:

You've got it badly wrong. I would expect a professional journalist straight out of indentures to have recognised that an off-the-record interview remains so unless the interviewee grants permission or the interview is proved to have been given under a false pretext. I would also expect a professional to recognise that it is impossible to pre-judge what is prejudicial to a trail until the trial has taken place, which is why most sections of the media err on the side of caution in cases such as this. Just because someone has been named by others is no excuse to broadcast information given confidentially. The justification you give is spurious and is another chip off the reputation of BBC news.

  • 137.
  • At 06:10 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • jools wrote:

I want to add to the general condemnation. I cannot believe the weasle words used to justify this decision. I am not naive enough to believe that the BBC is perfect, but I believed that it at least attempted to uphold some sort of journalistic standards. Will the BBC apologise and assure that this will never happen aganin?

  • 138.
  • At 06:14 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Matthew Grant wrote:

It must have been very tempting indeed to broadcast this interview, but on this occasion there was no justification for doing so. A foolish decision. It would have taken a brave person not to broadcast this. But that is what would have been right.

  • 139.
  • At 06:27 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Angelika wrote:

I had already made a formal complaint about the BBC's coverage before I found this page. Mr Stephens is a SUSPECT, nothing more. Innocent until proven guilty. If he is innocent the BBC will have destroyed his life. The BBC has behaved absolutely disgracefully.

  • 140.
  • At 07:08 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Martin Smith wrote:

The public has no right to know the details of an ongoing murder investigation. The BBC has taken a punt that broadcasting the material in question will not prejudice any futiure trial. Let us hope that this hunch proves to be correct or else Hutton will look like a cake walk.

Overall the BBC coverage of these murders has been lurid and meretricious with its reporters standing around broadcasting "live" from remote locations in the Suffolk countryside as if it were an episode from some sadistic police drama with frequent interventions from so-called "experts." Dreadful.

  • 141.
  • At 07:11 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Imogen wrote:

I too have my doubts about BBC wisdom on this one. Sharing the interview with the police was the right thing to do. But it should not have been shared with the public.

  • 142.
  • At 07:34 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Bill wrote:

Putting aside the prejudice point, the BBC appears to have reneged on its agreement with the interviewee. Its rationale for doing so seems pretty thin, if not threadbare. It is a great shame because the conclusion drawn by many people will be that a media organisation's word is not to be trusted, and that this applies even to the more respectable end of the media marketplace. People who had already formed this view will have had that view reinforced.

  • 143.
  • At 07:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

Yes people are wary of the media now. But you have to remember that first impressions count a lot and will go deeply into the subconscious of a jury. So even if they bare in mind that the news organizations cannot be trusted and believe they are still thinking for themselves - it could still influence their decision subconsciously. Also I must add that it is not surprising that trust in news organizations is being lost when the most trusted of all - the BBC - loses integrity so easily to get a high ratings story out. In what way will the public gain from knowing about this man's private life? A serious meeting is called for within the BBC right away - to decide whether to apologise over this. A quick apology will help regain that ever more important trust. Other news (ITV, the paper etc) might not make much of this story - as they are the same - but you can be sure the bloggers will.

  • 144.
  • At 08:15 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • david jones wrote:

The BBC thought it was right !!
The issues in hand are for the courts to decide, not the BBC !!
How many times have people spoken to the TV only for their representations before the cameras to be found to be lies in court.
What the BBC should be doing is to put its own house in order and put on quality programmes, not the incessant rubbish that is on our screens every day!!

  • 145.
  • At 08:29 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • David Jones wrote:

Another BBC failure. Prejudicing possible court proceedings in the pursuit of a days ratings - if Sky did it the BBC would be on its high horse, but this so-called 'public service' broadcaster feels justified in lying to its interviewees and (possibly) putting an innocent man in jail just in the hope of 'setting the agenda' for tomorrow's papers. What a pathetic waste of money this discredited organisation is.

  • 146.
  • At 08:35 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Richard Forrest wrote:

Almost every opinion expressed on this page expresses concern over the BBC's decision to transmit the interview. I hope that Adrian Van-Klaveren will take the time to answer these criticisms and provide us with a proper justification for this (his?) decision.

I personally do not understand how Tom Stephens' arrest altered the terms of your agreement with him. Obviously it was not worth the paper it was written on.

  • 147.
  • At 08:36 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • bob wrote:

It seems to me that its unacceptable that the suspects name, face, place of employment and facts about his personal life were all published before he's even been charged...if he didn't commit a crime then nothing good can come of this. He hasn't been charged and this information should not be made available.

  • 148.
  • At 08:38 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

Come along now, you published because you had a good old 'journalistic scoop'.

You may argue that you thought that a promise that it wouldn't be broadcast was over-ridden by the supposition that he hadn't been entirely candid with you.

But none of us will know that until someone is put on trial for the offences and I think in the circumstances you could have erred on the side of caution.

  • 149.
  • At 08:51 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

An 'interesting' decision - interesting for where it suggests the BBC's motives lie these days.

I wonder whether this decision will be shown to be in the public interest or not, if and when there is a trial.

  • 150.
  • At 08:59 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Bob Mehew wrote:

I think your arguments about special case do not over ride the commitment your reporter presumably gave (presumably with out caveat) to Tom Stephens. I would have accepted an item on the news saying "yes we have interviewed the guy in custody and have passed that information to the police, but we do not feel we can over ride the commitment of anonymity we gave to him". You could have even used his web site material as the primary source for a news item which would have probably given you a fair amount of "interesting" news.

I hope the reporter who gave that commitment is now considering his / her position and would be interested in hearing how they square their position. Other reporters have gone to prison rather than breach their word. What is that reporter doing? I trust no bonus comes of it.

I agree with other comments that we can no longer trust the BBC on confidentiality if the situation arises where it becomes a ratings matter.

Will you come back in a few days time with your response to these E Mails?

  • 151.
  • At 09:08 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

Shame on you, bbc. This was an outrageous piece of opportunism designed to gain an 'exclusive' on the news coverage of the dreadful events within Ipswich.
To insist that no future trial has been prejudiced is clearly untrue - everyone who has heard the interview will form an opinion of Tom Stephens.
I am sure your confidence that "you have done nothing wrong" will be tested in the libel courts if Tom Stephens is proved unconnected to the murders.
I note the irony of the fact that, before posting you request an email address that will not be displayed.
What would be the circumstances that will change your decision on this without prior consent?

  • 152.
  • At 09:09 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Game wrote:

A big shoot in the foot. It will hurt till it heal.

  • 153.
  • At 09:44 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Dave T wrote:

I'd really love to know on what basis the BBC feel it justified to even name a man arrested on suspicion, but, crucially, not charged with any offence.

If this man is eventually released without charge his life will be made hell and the BBC and other media outlets have behaved very irresonsibly in this regard.

I am very sad to see the BBC descend to the depths of the tabloid press.

  • 154.
  • At 10:09 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Gordon wrote:

I don`t think it was right for the BBC to publicly air the interview with the suspect.

The BBC should have handed the tape straight to the Police as obviously the suspect seems to have a lot of information that could be of assistance in solving the case.

The media play a useful role in assisting the police in crimesolving and the BBCs own sucessful Crimewatch programme is a good example of how useful the Media are when co-operating with the police,and public.

Twice suspects involved in this case have been named before any formal charges have been brought,this is wrong.

I think the media needs to take a more responsible position and think more about prioritising and assisting the polices` investigation rather than their viewing,listening or reading figures.

  • 155.
  • At 10:22 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • gd wrote:

What has happened? Totally agree with previous posters - you no longer have the right to call to call yourselves responsible journalists. The easy option was there and you grabbed it with the inevitable loss of respect and fairly obvious consequential loss of trust. This is very, very depressing - did anyone think beyond the headline at any time. There was a time when the BBC could be trusted - sadly no longer.

  • 156.
  • At 10:37 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • jazzone wrote:

What's with all the outrage at this guy losing his anonymity - he was giving interviews left, right and centre; it seems there's hardly a reporter in Ipswich he hadn't talked to. Frankly once he was splashed across the Sunday Mirror all bets were off.

Furthermore I'd be astonished if this amounted to a contempt of court. Remember it has to be SUBSTANTIAL risk of SERIOUS prejudice. Simply by saying he knew the victims and had sex with some of them doesn't get close to ticking those boxes.

Seriously - think of all the stuff that gets published after someone gets arrested (but before they're charged) in connection with a serious crime - there's loads of it in the papers and on the airwaves every day.

Now think how many contempt prosecutions there've been. About the only one I can remember in the recent past is the Sunday Mirror being nailed for publishing an interview with the victim in the Leeds Utd assault case while the jury were still considering their verdict.

  • 157.
  • At 10:42 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

Once more we see that a trial is a formal process where lawyers are more concerned that their rules are obeyed rather than a fair result is achieved. If broadcasting what someone actually said freely and not under duress can prejudice what lawyers call a "fair trial", it is time to review the trial process. Remember that in any future trial the jury should get to hear all the evidence, although this is often prejudiced by a judge ruling some evidence "inadmissable". If I were a juror I'd like the chance to hear ALL the evidence and make up my own mind. To suggest that something like an interview can interfere with a fair trial is to impugn all potential jurors.

  • 158.
  • At 10:56 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • martin killips wrote:

It is nonsense for the BBC to say that broadcasting the interview will not be prejudicial to the case. The fact is it may strengthen or weaken the case, but either way it still has the potential to influence the jurists.

Once Stephens was arrested the interview should have stayed under wraps and broadcast only if he was later released without charge.

  • 159.
  • At 10:59 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Colin wrote:

A work colleague today suggested that anyone wishing to speak to the BBC off the record should obtain a legal agreement that if the interview was subsequently broadcast, the BBC should pay them two million pounds.

Given you guys at the BBC don't appear have journalistic standards any more, perhaps that might make you think twice in future.

Reading the responses to this blog, it is heartening to note that the public understand, even if the BBC doesn't, the simple rule that if you give your word, you keep it.

  • 160.
  • At 11:03 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Gareth wrote:

I hope that you have the good sense to review these comments and take them at face value.

You got it wrong and you've overstepped the mark, in I think the normal journalistic way, which is you use your power to ignore the general principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty. There are a number of people whose lives have been irrevocably tainted by being thrust in the media spotlight for things they didn't do and for which they were released without charge but then vilified for years or decades after because the general populace works at that base level. Legislation should be passed to address this but of course the media throws its weight behind the salacious stories selling clicks and inches and no government has the guts to change the rules.

In this case you got it completely and utterly wrong *whatever* happens to anyone arrested here. You broke a condition of interview and published it.

Take a deep breath and apologise. Oh but you won't. Your lawyers won't possibly let you.

I'll give you credit if you actually post this.

  • 161.
  • At 11:13 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Robert Digings wrote:

What's the only good thing to come out of this terrible affair so far? Well for me it's reading the passionate, thoughtful and well argued comments by over 60 other people, who clearly care about integrity, justice and professionalism as much as I do.

I have to say I simply can't believe anyone at the BBC could possibly have thought it OK to broadcast Tom Stephens interview, not even the newest trainee. It appears you have lost your senses in the excitement of a scoop. Just what we don't need you to do.

These are as you say exceptional circumstances and it is at precisely these times when great leaders make the right decision and the rest foul up.

The fact that you seem to be sticking with this crass decision makes you look even more out of touch than you do already.

My hopes now? Admit you got it wrong, put in place measures to ensure it doesn't happen again, make a full and unreserved apology to both Mr Stephens and your audience, who are incensed.

I feel so strongly about this issue that I have also made an formal complaint to the BBC and encourage others to do the same.

  • 162.
  • At 11:53 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

"Confident" is way off being good enough. "Certain" should have been the only green light to the broadcast.

  • 163.
  • At 12:18 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Kenneth wrote:

Adrian Van-Klaveren has made such a catastrophic error of judgement in broadcasting the Stephens interview that he should resign or, failing that, he should be sacked.

  • 164.
  • At 12:22 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

I am a professional journalist. And I am appalled at what you did, Adrian.

There can be no excuses for you, Adrian. You did something very wrong.

You have damaged the possibility of a fair trial (should it come to that) possibly wrecked someone's life and you have shown a gross breach of trust.

I would never have done what you did. I COULD have done something similar, several years ago. But something stopped me. Personal integrity.

  • 165.
  • At 01:15 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Matt Stewart wrote:

Come on fess up. There was no public interest involved in this reporting. It was tabloid sensationalist stuff. The only reason you did it was to try to get one over on sky. In the past BBC Editors would have had the courage to take an independent line and not worry about the opposition. No longer.

  • 166.
  • At 04:41 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Damian Smith wrote:

Once again I'm afraid this exhibits the lowering of the standards of integrity and the poor judgement of those who work at the BBC, which was once held in the highest regard around the world. Sadly this is no longer so. Many people will naturally think back to the death of Doctor David Kelly and the part the same lowering of standards may have played in his death.

There is a difference between purient interest and public interest.

What exactly was the compelling public interest in throwing away your ethics and broadcasting this interview?

Shameful and don't ever ask me to go 'off the record' with you.

  • 168.
  • At 08:42 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

At a time when public trust in fundamental British Institutions is at an all time low (thanks Tony), it is imperative that the BBC maintains its standards.

Broadcasting the interview was a glaring error for all the obvious reasons.

  • 169.
  • At 08:44 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

I think it was a terrible decision to broadcast the interview. An agreement had been made that it would not be used and BBC broke that trust. My license fee is paid to support great journalism and the decision effects the whole industry. Who will give nescessary background information to reporters if they fear the BBC or any journalist won't keep their word.

  • 170.
  • At 08:53 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Neil wrote:

They sit at their news desks and talk about "the media" as though it were something (dirty) else.

I don’t know these men so does it really matter to us what the arrestee’s names are, what they look or sound like,
If these men are released without charge their lives will be ruined for what!

As for confidentiality the BBC "the media" is hypocrisy beyond belief.

  • 171.
  • At 08:56 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Beth wrote:

All I can say is I hope they have the right person. What happened to innocent till proven guilty? The killer needs to be caught as soon as possible and tried using the British judicial system. It needs to be a trial based on the jury's verdict not that of the media.

  • 172.
  • At 09:50 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • malik wrote:

I do respect the bbc and think they are usually fair.. and they do take the praise when they are.

Will the bbc say they have made a horrible mistake and are sorry?

  • 173.
  • At 09:59 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Murphy wrote:

I was very disturbed on Monday with the reporting into the arrest of Tom Stephens, not just from the tabloids but from all the media outlets
including the BBC Radio and TV. The man had not been charged with anything and there was no reason whatsoever for anyone to presume that he was guilty of the murders. Even Paxman on Monday night was taking about the behavior of the 'media' prejudicing any court case while at the same time passing on the "gossip" as to the name of the man arrested as though the BBC is somehow above the media.

Hearing the head of BBC news justifying releasing the recording that Tom Stephens made in good faith by calling it 'public interest' is likely to stop people in the future coming forward to offer valuable information in future cases.

Now they have arrested a second man for these crimes and it may well turn out that Tom Stephens is released without charge, his life blighted, his god given right to privacy taken away. He may be guilty of being an odd bloke and client of prostitutes but that does not give anyone the right to play a part in destroying his character. They say we do not have capital punishment in this country anymore, i would disagree, it seems that you do not even need to be guilty to be crucified in this day and age, just being odd is enough now.

I can choose not to buy the Sun and the Mirror, i can choose not to watch tabloid style commercial TV news? The BBC is better than this and i hope it is not a sign of things to come. You are not there to compete with the tabloids you are there to report the news and you would have risen above all of this by not naming Tom Stephens, today you would have been left with much more respect.

God help us all if we ever innocently get caught up in a major incident in the future, it could ruin our lives.

  • 174.
  • At 10:14 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Tom Coyle wrote:

The media are feeding a public thirst for information but we seem to have lost sight of the fundamental tenet of law "habeus corpus".

Everything about these murders and the investigation is very sad.

  • 175.
  • At 10:59 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • stephen wrote:

There seems to be confusion between what THE PUBLIC IS INTERESTED IN , i.e. anything sensationalist and scurrilous and what is IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

How is it possible to hold trial of this person without prejudice now that this has all been broadcast.

Tabloid dumbed down BBC.
What a pity.

I have not seen the video, nor do I have any intention of seeking it out, but had to add my voice to the many who deplore the BBC's decision to make public the name and image of the (first) man in custody. A man who has not yet been charged.

You wrote:
"We felt there was a compelling public interest in letting the public hear what he had to say. He knew all five of the murdered women, two of them well. He had much to say about the world of drug dealers and financial pressures in which they lived. On balance it seemed to us to be wrong to deny people the opportunity to hear his thoughts on the events of the past few weeks."

I strongly disagree - it would have been in the "public interest" to have handed the video and interview notes to the police and said no more of the matter until the end of the trial - if indeed this man goes to trial.

This is a stunt more suited to the Murdoch empire than the BBC and I'm very surprised that it was allowed and, worse, now "justified".

On the plus side however, I'm pleased to note that news broadcasts on Radio 4 are now using the phrase "five young women who worked as prostitutes" rather than "five prostitutes".

  • 177.
  • At 11:11 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Alison Williams wrote:

I'm not quite clear how this decision was reached. Is it

a) if someone is suspected of a crime, this gives the BBC the right to betray their trust? Or is it

b) if someone has a story that the public may have a high degree of prurient interest in, that justifies the breach of trust?

How long until we have trial by reality TV show vote? Much more entertaining than that dull business of ethics and justice.

  • 178.
  • At 11:13 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Bryan wrote:

I can't see how this interview could be expected to prejudice any future trail. If there is a case to answer, I would expect the interview, or at least the details it provides to form part of the evidence for the prosecution.

  • 179.
  • At 12:34 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • James Saint wrote:

Surely the Beeb are just chasing ratings - what is the purpose of airing this interview otherwise? Its a sensitive case and anyone with common sense knows this type of thing messes up a fair trial. Yet again the BBC has disappointed me.

  • 180.
  • At 12:54 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Lucy wrote:

Some journalists risk imprisonment for refusing to name their sources. BBC News have betrayed one of theirs for the sake of a scoop.

  • 181.
  • At 01:50 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Martin Beecroft wrote:

The BBC have overstepped the mark, how can he now have a fair trial ?

The BBC is now part of the Gutter Press.The lowest of the low.

  • 182.
  • At 01:57 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Bea wrote:

It is not for the public to judge, that is for a jury. BBC should have left their story until all the facts were disclosed.

  • 183.
  • At 02:01 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Tim C wrote:

Seems that your audience doesn't agree with you Mr Van-Klaveren. Time to accept that you got it wrong? I know, I shouldn't be silly, I've never heard a BBC producer or director admit they've got anything wrong in at least the last twenty years.

  • 184.
  • At 02:04 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Stewart Robertson wrote:

That's 68 to nil at the time of writing. Come on Mr Van-Klaveren: time to apologise.

  • 185.
  • At 03:19 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Jennifer wrote:

I am frankly disgusted by the attitude of the BBC in this regard. The notion of innocence until proven otherwise is enshrined in our judicial system: you have betrayed an innocent - not even a charged! - man's trust in the name of an exclusive.

This is one of the BBC's darkest journalistic hours and your defence is incredulous.

  • 186.
  • At 04:02 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

The decision to air his interview was totally wrong, for all the reasons listed by others here.

The fact that it was touted on the news as an 'exclusive', suggests it was all to do with trying to beat the tabloids at their own game and nothing at all about it being in the Public interest.

Regardless of whether or not he is found to have committed these murders the BBC still mucked up!

  • 187.
  • At 04:03 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Richard Woolley wrote:

The BBC was not the first to publish prejudicial information in this case and it certainly won't be the last.
The front page of the Sun, for example, which pictured one of the suspects with his hands around a woman's throat. Because the public wants to know the ins and outs of the investigation does not make it acceptable (or legal) for you to broadcast it. You have betrayed the confidence of a contact, undermined the faith viewers hold in you, and helped to mark a man who, for all you know, did not kill those women.


  • 188.
  • At 04:10 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

If this man ever goes to trial, his only hope is that the jurors pay as little heed to anything BBC has to say as I do. In the US, OJ Simpson was convicted in the press and on TV by the likes of Jeraldo Rivera night after night but he was aquitted because contrary to popular opinion, the prosecution didn't prove its case. We can only hope that juries in the UK are just as impartial.

  • 189.
  • At 04:12 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • David M wrote:

I do not know where my other comment is, perhap it is still being processed. However I wish to add another query:

Why do the reporters so frequently tell us what neighbours thought of the suspect? What possible good is it for them to tell us he/she was reluse, kind, keft themself to themselves or whatever the case may be? Do we expect the suspect to have worn a cape, balaclave and be brandishing a knife?

It doesn't add anything to the report, and can arguably stimulat paranoia of sorts; witness panic-buying of 'panic alarms' by people who patently were not at risk.

  • 190.
  • At 04:22 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen wrote:

Since Suffolk Police has not officially named Mr Stephens as the (first) arrested man, BBC News must surely have obtained confirmation of his name from a police source. No doubt he/she was assured of confidentiality. Will you please let us know who it was? In the public interest?

Of course you won't.

I can't help hoping BBC News will get into more trouble over this. Unfortunately, any fine or civil award against the BBC will be covered by licence payers' money.

I'm surprised the journalist who conducted this interview has not resigned out of principle.

  • 191.
  • At 09:32 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Rob Stone wrote:

This evening I was struck by the extent to which the reporters on the BBC 24 hr news channel were happy to reiterate the names of the suspects in the suffolk murder cases.

The suspects probably feel themselves to be in enough trouble as it is, and possibly aren't that concerned about what the BBC are broadcasting about them. However, the sight of the father of one of the men being doorstepped by some prurient reporter was very worrying.

There has been a change in the BBC policy, I guess (if not the law) which allows this. This policy of naming suspects feels to me irresponsible; lacking in consideration of the extended families of those named. When was the practice of naming suspects in murder (or other) cases was adopted? It seems new.


  • 192.
  • At 10:00 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Clark Harlow wrote:

Absolutely typical actions of a self-serving BBC. You say you transmitted the interview because of the "compelling public interest in letting the public hear what he had to say" - e.g. "he had much to say about the world of drug dealers and financial pressures in which they lived". Fine, in that case why not use the material, but retain the anonymity of the source - which you had promised to do to secure the interview in the first place?

I just wish I'd seen the interview...

  • 194.
  • At 11:12 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Geoff Beale wrote:

Now 138 to 2 at time of posting.
Apology to be published?

  • 195.
  • At 11:44 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

Recently I read an article (in The Guardian I believe) about Paul Watson's recent documentary about alcoholics. He mentioned how difficult it is now for a serious film-maker to get access to people and places. The reason? So many of us have seen members of the public set-up by unscrupulous, two-faced producers and reporters and we won't give them the time of day.

This was a betrayal of trust just so you could claim an exclusive.

The message is clear to anyone who talks to a BBC reporter in the future...

  • 196.
  • At 05:05 AM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Drew Wilson wrote:

I think the BBC in this "Exclusive" should stand for British Broadcasting Clanger......Soon to appear on Aunties Bloopers.
The BBC's ill judgement has potential to ruin a murder trial or ruin an innocents life. And that is not in the publics interest Mr Van-Klaveren.

  • 197.
  • At 08:37 AM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Peter Heywood wrote:

I see no justification for broadcasters breaking their agreement with this man - who has not be found guilty of any crime - were I ever asked for an interview, I would not believe any promises that the journalist gave me - who having a mind to this would ever trust what he is told by a journalist?

  • 198.
  • At 10:42 AM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Cooke wrote:

Hey !!! - wait a minute - suddenly on Newsnight last night, Gavin Esler went all coy & invokes "legal advice" in not showing or talking about the headlines from 1 or 2 tabloids which talked about the Suffolk murders suspects. "You'll have to buy it to read about it", he said.
Too late, Gavin/Peter B, too late !!! You're already chest deep in legal trouble & sinking even faster.
And in any case, telling us what the newspaper's headlines are is not in itself an offence. Or maybe the BBC are upset that the tabloids got there ahead of you.
I was looking forward to the day the BBC ended up in the gutter. Behold the downward slide...what a wonderful sight !!!

  • 199.
  • At 12:23 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Daniel Owen wrote:

Unfortunately, the only person who can complain to Ofcom about the unfair treatment that Mr Stephens has received, and the flagrant breach of his privacy, is Stephens himself. However, BBC News is ultimately accountable to the BBC Governors and (from the New Year) the BBC Trust for the maintenance of the editorial standards that it has so recklessly trampled on in this instance. I'd suggest that anyone outraged by the BBC's crass and irresponsible decision to publish this interview should write directly to Anhony Salz, Acting Chair of the BBC Governors and Dr Chitra Bharucha, Acting Chair of the BBC Trust.

Thanks for all your comments. Those of us involved in the editorial decision-making at the BBC this week have read them, and I've added a response to them in a new posting, which is here.

  • 201.
  • At 04:26 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Gregory wrote:

As regards the matter of predjucing any future trial, I must let the BBC know that this has already been raised with the Suffolk Constabulary, and that there may well be matters arising.

Perhaps the BBC needs to tread more carefully in the future and let the legal processes run their course before jumping in and executing trial by television.

  • 202.
  • At 04:46 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Caroline wrote:

I'd still like to have my original question, asked in my formal complaint to the BBC, answered. It was, why have the BBC published the name of a man when the police decided not to? Obviously, this seems a hopelessly foolish question now that I learn that the BBC cannot even be trusted to keep it's own word when the opportunity for a tabloid-style scoop beckons, but as I requested an answer I should like to have one.

  • 203.
  • At 04:54 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Joe Page wrote:

I made a complaint to the BBC recently regarding this broadcast. It was utter tabloid sensationalism. I find it astonishing that such a prejudicial piece is even allowed to be broadcast. If he is guilty the trial will be compromised by reporting of this nature. If he is innocent his life will be in tatters. To think otherwise is naïve.

  • 204.
  • At 06:21 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

The BBC was right. The usual suspects posting here display a considerable degree of ignorance.
How could it possibly be considered contempt of court? The man said in the recording that he knew the women. So it could hardly prejudice a jury's views, he can hardly deny he knew them given that its on the tape!
I find it hard to believe anyone actually disagrees with the decision but rather their views are obviously jaundiced.

  • 205.
  • At 10:53 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Allan Moore wrote:

Having read the BBC stance on this issue, I am absolutely disgusted that you have chosen to hide behind the 'public interest' technicality. In broadcasting the interviews, and subsequent reporting pieces you have broken the law - pure and simple, and no argument to the contrary. Meeting with prostitutes may be a morality issue, however in reporting in the manner here (100% tabloid reporting) not only was the fair legal process DEFINATELY prejudiced, but the BBC may well have been a significant factor in ruining an innocent mans' life. It is outrageous that the BBC should try to justify its actions and I can only hope that the Attorney General extends its powers of contempt of court on the BBC to the greatest levels of punishment possible. The BBC should now issue a full apology to this man and his family, although I will not hold my breath. Disgraceful.

  • 206.
  • At 10:59 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Christine wrote:

As the BBC justified it disgraceful Prejudice towards Tom Stepens due to a "change in circumstances" is it now going to apologise to a man who has been released on bail without charge? What life has he now got to go back too.
If he is never charged then you should admit you hanged the wrong man before he even had a chance.
Gutter press does not even begin to cover how you gave behaved.

  • 207.
  • At 02:59 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Walsh wrote:

What gutter journalism. You are pathetic. I suggest you were enticed to judge Tom Stephens as guilty before even a court appearance so you could break the news. What does Tom Stephens go back to now after all that you have made public.

  • 208.
  • At 03:19 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

I'm glad for the right to reply on this website. I hope the BBC listens to the consistent message of the comments here. We all want the BBC to stay as it is and be an organization of quality.

  • 209.
  • At 09:45 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Darren wrote:

Well the latest news is that the second man arrested has been charged, and Tom Stephens has been released on bail. Signs currently therefore point to him being innocent of the crimes.

Nice job BBC, you (and others) have destroyed a man's life for ratings.

  • 210.
  • At 01:05 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Adrian wrote:

Hmmmm.... seems the gent in question has now been released without charge, and the second suspect has been charged with all 5 murders. I wonder what recourse Mr Stephens might have against the BBC if it transpires that charges are not brought against him in future?

Should that turn out to be the situation - good luck to him, I say.

The overwhelming one-sided nature of comments on here speaks volumes - remember - we ARE the BBC audience.

  • 211.
  • At 03:14 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew St.Denis wrote:

Well looky there, Tom Stephens has been released and another man has been charged. Do the BBC still stand by their decision?

Has Mr. Stephens complained as yet that he had requested that interview not be published and had no input as to the BBC's choice to disregard that choice?

And when the man charged appeared in court look at the numbers that were there... Looked to me that the journalists outnumbered the public by quite a bit. Perhaps what those journalists think is 'In the public interest' isn't interesting that public much.

  • 212.
  • At 03:59 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • James Collins wrote:

You have now set a dangerous precedence that if the wind blows in your direction you will break any and all promises you make, this to the very people you need to publish the news.

My trust in you is lost.

  • 213.
  • At 04:18 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Shaun Ross wrote:

Instead of posting here file an official complaint. Then we will see if it was in the publics interest.

  • 214.
  • At 05:56 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

Re The BBC and Tom Stephens

It is my hope that this incident will lead to a big change in the BBC.
I would like it to return to a news service that is just that. Away with competition with our disgraceful gutter press. Away with the over-dramatised news presentation. A guarantee from the very top that, in future, an undertaking of confidentiality is just that unless the BBC becomes under a legal obligation to disclose.
Also, in capable hands, interviews should be as forceful as necessary without provocation that amounts to lack of respect and/or comment that amounts to a smear.

  • 215.
  • At 06:13 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Glynn Jones wrote:

I notice that the link to the Stephens interview is still up and running, after all to remove it now would be an admission that it was wrong to make it public in the first place - wouldn't it?

  • 216.
  • At 09:17 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Tom Nixon wrote:

Remember who pays when Mr Stephens (rightly) sues the BBC. Not those reporters with egos and CVs to push, not those editors with their selfless desire to inform the public (of their latest scoop from the gutter), but us mugs who are paying the BBC license fee (by law)...disgusting. Someone should resign, and the hacks responsible should go and work at ITV.

  • 217.
  • At 12:24 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Bruce wrote:

The BBC's reporting of this case was tacky, insensitive and prurient from the start, but I am horrified by your cheap decision to broadcast the interview.

You have done a grave injustice to your interviewee by betraying his trust. Worse still, you may have prejudiced any subsequent proceedings.

On top of that, you have dragged the BBC down to the level of the tabloids in your pursuit of audience share, at the expense of moral integrity.

You have made a spectacularly wrong judgement and should admit it.

  • 218.
  • At 10:30 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Nolan wrote:

I'm appalled that the BBC chose to become involved in this disgusting tabloid standard journalism. Do you still feel justified now you have probably destroyed this, almost certainly, innocent man's life? In future, how often do you think people will be prepared to be interviewed after this totally umwarranted breach of trust? Everyone involved in this decision should be ashamed.

  • 219.
  • At 05:21 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Dom O'Halloran wrote:

I don't think they've affected the justice system, maybe public opinion though.

Haven't they charged a different person anyway? I think Tom Stephens is just a sad lonely man who wanted some attention! It's certainly feasible that some men in the local area would've got to know all of these women, and anybody with common sense wouldn't jump to conclusions.

  • 220.
  • At 06:52 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Shaun Ross wrote:

Now it seems the BBC do not publish comments on blogs after its proven the majority is against their gutter journalism!

Why bother blogging?

  • 221.
  • At 09:53 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • chandrashekar wrote:

Having paid the licence fee to the BBC I feel angry with this and numerous other breaches of media ethics.

Can I expect to see the BBC to in all fairness to the ethics refer themselves to Ofcom.

What I see is a series of these breaches which gradually lower the public concern and nromalization of such wrong practices.

Practitioners of many other professions(esp doctors) will be taken to court over such breaches, but why should BBC be spared.

  • 222.
  • At 11:03 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

None so blind...

  • 223.
  • At 11:26 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Alan Tuthill wrote:

As I recall, he specifically mentioned in the 'off the record interview' that one of the reasons he wanted anonymity was because he did not want his name mentioned in the same sentence as prostitutes!!!! That may seem incongruous for a man who apparently used their services but thats his business and not yours. Of course, you were too busy looking at the connection to even ensure that specific requests like that were adhered to. It was cheap of the BBC to use this interview in this context and I expect you will pay for it in more ways than you think. I beleive he has a good case against you for the breach and the overwhelming opinion seems to agree. I wonder if some presenters would agree to a pay drop so you could pay this unfortunate guy adequate compensation.

  • 224.
  • At 11:23 AM on 24 Dec 2006,
  • Gary wrote:

The BBC has made a HUGE mistake here. No one will trust the BBC with off the record comments again. Journalists used to go to prison to protect there sources - not the BBC! Sold out for a fast headline; A truly shameful affair. I had the highest regard for the BBC - but that has now been destroyed.

This man has not been charged with anything. I am at a loss as to how it became in the public interest.
I think you need to dismiss your current ethics department and replace them with - well anyone passing on the street would do.

  • 225.
  • At 04:19 AM on 27 Dec 2006,
  • Jeremy wrote:

It's amazing. 210 of those people that could be bothered around the country to write in; and every single person that did, (except the first writer - convenient....) think that Adrian van-klavern was wrong and are utterly disgusted by his actions.

You've not responded. what does it take to garner a response from you?

  • 226.
  • At 05:36 PM on 27 Dec 2006,
  • Patrick wrote:

I often wonder why anyone talks to the media in these days. Suffice to say that the media has such a self importance view of itself that it no longer reports, but creates news. Oh how we long for the days of good, honest reporters and media outlets.

  • 227.
  • At 07:48 AM on 28 Dec 2006,
  • Neil wrote:

All the media seem to be currently chasing a story about Tony Blair’s holiday cost, fine, but pretty inconsequential.

If this were a politician who did or did not do something you would be going for brownie points by getting him out of office.
In this Tom Stephens case you all (the media) seem to have closed ranks.

freedom of the press - to bury self criticism

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