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BBC Ofcom Tommy Sheridan

Gail Sheridan's lawyer questions legality of BBC broadcast of police interview footage


By Stephen Lepitak, -

October 26, 2011 | 3 min read

Gail Sheridan’s solicitor has questioned the legality of the BBC’s broadcasting of the police tapes of her interviews while under caution by Lothian & Borders Police, as she challenges Ofcom’s decision to clear its documentary the ‘Rise and Lies of Tommy Sheridan’.

Media lawyer Campbell Dean will represent Sheridan in her pursuit of a judicial review of Ofcom’s decision, reported legal publication The Firm.

Sheridan is married to former Scottish MSP Tommy Sheridan, currently serving a jail sentence for perjury during his libel case against the News of the World.

Dean spoke to The Drum, and questioned the legality of the BBC's broadcast of police footage of her being questioned when arrested, as well as Ofcom’s decision to clear the programme which broadcast her interview by Lothian and Borders police, after which charges against her were dropped.

“The basic premise that Ofcom reached was that Gail Sheridan was entitled to privacy but that there was a public interest that outweighed that right to privacy. In my professional opinion that is just nonsense. If she has a right to privacy, how can the public interest outweigh that in this particular case? We have a woman who has been found not guilty in due process, with all charges dropped, and you also have a tape which has been obtained for all intents and purposes, unlawfully,” commented Dean.

“The decision is fundamentally wrong, that’s what it comes down to. If the matter had gone before a court, and the court was in a situation where it had to balance the right of privacy of an individual and the public interest in those circumstances, the rights of privacy would have outweighed the right to broadcast,” he continued.

“When an individual is cautioned and charged and sitting in a police cell, you are cautioned and told that you have the right to remain silent, not that anything you don’t say we’ll pass to the BBC and the BBC will show it at a later date. And the BBC must be aware that the information that they have obtained is information that has a cloak of confidentiality surrounding it. They know they shouldn’t have it and that it is inherently private information. That’s fine if the public interest outweighs it, but it’s beyond me how in the circumstances here, the public interest can be deemed to outweigh it.”

The Drum is currently awaiting comment from Ofcom about Sheridan’s challenge to its verdict.

Sheridan told The Firm: "I've never asked Ofcom to help me in the past and won't bother in the future as they obviously stick up for the powerful not the powerless. The BBC should have shown more respect for my privacy in this matter and been unwilling to use an illegally obtained and thus soiled video. It was not the BBC's finest hour and Ofcom have let me down. I am compelled to seek a judicial review of this decision."

In January, Steven Raeburn, editor of The Firm analysed the complaint by Sheridan for The Drum.

BBC Ofcom Tommy Sheridan

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