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FAQ's

Q. Can criminals ever be paid to take part in programmes? What about expenses?


A. Yes. If a convicted person is taking part in a programme and their contribution is unconnected with their criminal past, an appropriate payment may be made to that person. However, where a convicted person is taking part in a programme and their contribution is related to their crimes, no payment must be made to them unless it is justified by the public interest, any such payment having been approved by the broadcaster in advance. Modest expenses may be paid to criminals or those with a criminal past, whether or not there is a public interest but only on strict proof of the expenses incurred. Again, any such payment would require Channel 4's consent.

Q. Can payments be made to a criminal's family members or to someone close to him/her, for example girlfriend, boyfriend?


A. If they themselves make a contribution to the programme, family members or associates of the criminal can be paid, as long as the criminal does not benefit from the payment. Where they do not themselves actually make a contribution, it is unlikely that payments to them will be acceptable. Any decision to pay family members or individuals close to criminals or those with a criminal past, rather than pay the criminal him/herself, must be approved by Channel 4 in advance.

Q. Can criminals be shown on television admitting to or committing criminal activity that they haven't yet been convicted for?


A. Yes. Criminals are often shown on camera admitting to criminal activity. Similarly, from time to time, actual criminal activity is caught on camera, for example drug-taking, violence, criminal damage. The important thing to remember is that a programme-maker should not encourage, incite or assist criminal activity, otherwise they may be guilty of an offence. Programme makers should always remain as impartial, passive observers. In addition, remember not to take what you are being told at face value. Is the person who is admitting to criminal activity likely to be telling the truth? Please refer to 'Viewer Trust Guidelines'.

Q. What assurances can I give to a contributor who is willing to admit on camera to criminal activity but is worried about the potential consequences?


A. Whilst prosecutions are rare, any individual admitting to committing criminal activity on camera may be investigated and, potentially, prosecuted following transmission and the film, including any rushes, could be obtained by the police by a court order and used as evidence. For this reason, programme-makers cannot give assurances to contributors that they won't be investigated or prosecuted. It is important, therefore, that before filming takes place, they should understand the potential consequences of their actions. Furthermore, programme-makers should always ask themselves why a person is willing to admit on camera to criminal activity. Always ask yourself, is the person telling the truth? Do they have any reason to lie? And even if they are telling the truth, is the person likely to deny what they have said later on. Programme-makers need to consider carefully what possible implications this could have.

Q. Can witnesses in legal proceedings be interviewed? Can I pay them?


A. If you are interviewing an individual who happens to be a witness involved in legal proceedings and their contribution to the programme is unconnected with those proceedings, then interviewing that person or making a payment to him/her for their contribution should not be problematic. However, interviews with individuals who are witnesses involved in legal proceedings where the subject of the interview is connected, even indirectly, with the proceedings need to be handled very carefully. This is to ensure that the individual's evidence isn't prejudiced by their involvement with the programme. Any such interview must not be undertaken without the prior consent of the programme lawyer who will advise on exactly how the interview should be handled, if it can go ahead at all. In such circumstances, payments or promises of payments cannot be made.

Q. A contributor has been charged with a criminal offence. Does this mean we can't include him/her?


A. This will depend on what offence has been committed, the nature of the programme and of the contribution. There may be contempt issues or it may be that it would simply be inappropriate to proceed given the serious nature of the charges. The important thing to remember is to alert your programme lawyer immediately.

Q. Do I have to tell a victim of crime or, where the victim is dead, their family, if the crime is mentioned in the programme?


A. Usually, yes. In many circumstances informing the victim or their family will be appropriate, particularly if the crime is to be referred to or examined in some detail. Again, the programme lawyer will advise on what is required in this regard. See also 'Privacy'.