Ofcom has not upheld a fairness and privacy complaint made in relation to an episode of the BBC’s Our Cops in the North.

The programme followed police officers investigating an incident in which a 70 year old man was robbed at knife-point in his own home. The complaint was made by Ms K on behalf of herself, her daughter, and Mr M. Mr M pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary in relation to the incident the police were investigating, and was sentenced to 7 years 8 months in prison.

The programme filmed and broadcast footage of Ms K’s home being searched by the police, because Mr M was associated with that address. It showed the inside of the home and personal items such as handbags and toys. It also showed CCTV footage of Mr M, his driving licence and footage of him at the custody desk of a police station.

Ms K complained about both the filming and broadcast of the footage. It was not in dispute that neither she nor Mr M had consented to the filming. The programme as broadcast did not identify the property. Ms K and her daughter were not named or identified in the programme. Nor was there any suggestion that they knew about Mr M’s actions. Mr M was identified.

Ofcom found that Ms K and her daughter did have a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to the filming and broadcast of the footage of their home. However, this was outweighed by the BBC and public’s right to freedom of expression and the public interest in the filming and broadcast of the programme. There is a public interest in broadcasting programmes that highlight the effects of crimes on victims and demonstrate the work of the police in searching for and obtaining evidence. As such their privacy was not unwarrantably infringed and there had been no breach of the Code.

In relation to Mr M, again Ofcom did find that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to the footage. In terms of the broadcast this was limited as by that time Mr M had been convicted of a criminal offence in relation to the events which featured in the programme. His privacy had not been unwarrantably infringed, as it was outweighed by the public interest and freedom of expression.

This is a useful example of three individuals, including a child, who were in different scenarios in relation to a programme following police officers in their work. Ofcom did not uphold any of the complaints.