Channel 5 has apologised and will pay “substantial damages” to an 88-year-old optometrist after settling a privacy claim brought over an episode of the TV show ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’

Brian Hitchin had brought a claim for misuse of private information against the TV broadcaster over the filming, making and broadcasting of the episode, which first aired in October 2016. It showed Mr Hitchin in ‘a state of distress’ as High Court Enforcement Agents attended his business premises to enforce a ‘Writ of Control’ obtained by an equipment supplier to seize goods unless the optometrist paid money owed.

A court subsequently held that Mr Hitchin did not owe the debt in question to the equipment supplier. Channel 5 then updated the episode’s epilogue informing viewers of this. More than 5.7 million people saw the programme in a form which showed Mr Hitchin’s face, and almost 6.2 million more saw it with his face blurred and name removed.

Channel 5 denied Mr Hitchin’s casebut said in a statement in open court, read out in the High Court in London on 1 April, that it was prepared to settle the claim as “…it may have got the balance wrong” on this occasion between matters of public interest and the right to respect for privacy. It apologised to Mr Hitchin for the distress caused to him, as part of a settlement which Mr Hitchin’s Counsel said involved, “the payment of substantial damages as well as… his reasonable legal costs”.

Mr Hitchin’s case recalls an earlier claim against Channel 5 by a married couple, Shakir Ali and Shahida Aslam, over a 2015 episode of ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’, in which footage of their eviction from their rented Essex home was broadcast. The couple successfully sued for misuse of their private information and were granted £10,000 each, an award later upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2019.