Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away! Channel 5 fail to stop privacy case

A privacy case relating to the Channel 5 Programme Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away! will proceed to trial after the channel failed in a bid to obtain summary judgment.

The programme showed the claimants, who are a married couple, being evicted from their home with their two children. They say this was a misuse of their private information, that they were identifiable and that they did not consent to being filmed.  They complained of a loss of dignity caused by the broadcast.

The programme showed the bailiffs entering their property, their preparations to leave, having been given one hour to do so, and them leaving the property. In particular they complain about the programme showing the inside of their home, including bedrooms and bathrooms, and them gathering up their things whilst being harangued by a representative of their landlord.

The eviction was carried out pursuant to a court order. Channel 5 say the couple had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the material in the programme, and that in any event it was outweighed by the public interest in showing the work of bailiffs and how those who fail to pay their rent are dealt with.

At the hearing, the channel argued that the claim had no realistic prospect of success. The judge disagreed that the claim had no realistic prospect of success and refused to give summary judgment. This means the matter will go ahead to a full trial. zoom-in will report further when the case proceeds.

Most programme-makers will be used to privacy complaints being made to Ofcom where complainants believe that programmes amount to an unwarranted infringement of their privacy rights and breach section 8 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code – see Yes to the Dress decision below.  This is a relatively rare case, where the complainants have decided to pursue a legal remedy through the courts for misuse of private information. It is possible for privacy complainants to bring both a regulatory complaint to Ofcom and a legal complaint before the courts where a cause of action exists.  In this case, it appears the complainants opted only for the latter course.