Section 8: Reporting Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour

Investigations into Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour


Investigations are an important way of uncovering matters of significant public interest, but must be clearly editorially justified.

Any proposal to undertake an investigation into crime or serious anti-social behaviour must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independents to the commissioning editorIt may also be necessary to consult Editorial Policy and Programme Legal Advice.


Any proposal to send someone to work as an undercover operative on an investigation into crime or serious anti-social behaviour must be referred to Editorial Policy.


It is good practice before an investigation is commissioned and before seeking editorial approval and legal advice to consider the following questions:

  • What is the justification for using any deception, undercover work or secret recording to gather further evidence?
  • Is this the only way to proceed?
  • What prima facie evidence already exists?
  • What is the background and motivation of any sources?
  • Are any of the sources confidential and can their confidentiality be maintained?
  • What are the possible consequences of our actions?

(See Section 7 Privacy 7.1 and 7.4.9 - 7.4.16, and Section 8 Reporting Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour: 8.4.3 - 8.4.4)


Director Editorial Policy and Standards must approve any proposal to employ someone known to have a criminal record or background of illegal activity working on a BBC investigation. This includes editorial members of the production team and undercover operatives.


Director Editorial Policy and Standards must also approve job applications by undercover operatives working on BBC investigations. The use of false information on a job application should normally be kept to the minimum necessary.


Criminal investigations involving covert surveillance or recording and/or confrontation of terrorists, serious criminal or extremist or violent or political groups are considered 'high risk activities'.  BBC Safety's High Risk Team must be consulted, in good time, for safety advice.

(See Section 11 War, Terror and Emergencies: 11.4.22)


During the investigation, the methods used (including any secret recording, undercover work or other deception) must be kept under constant review to ensure they continue to be justified and relevant.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.9 - 7.4.16)


If an investigation is successful the BBC's involvement may continue far beyond the original broadcast.  The police or prosecuting authorities may wish to interview members of the investigating team, including undercover operatives, about our methods and findings.  Members of the team may be called as witnesses in a prosecution.  It is important to ensure that our means and ends can withstand the most rigorous scrutiny.

(See Section 13 Re-use and Reversioning: 13.4.22 - 13.4.27)

(See Guidance: Investigations)