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Programmes Involving Criminal Activity

See also 'Programmes Involving Criminal Activity'.

In addition to the requirements of the Code, programme-makers making programmes involving criminal activity should have regard to the following:

Filming with criminals

When filming with criminals or filming criminal activity, bear in mind the following:

  • Proceed with caution. Always seek appropriate legal advice from the programme lawyer before filming takes place. Criminals do not tend to be truthful and have a vested interest in their own protection, so it is advisable to remain detached and objective when filming with criminals and not to take at face value everything they tell you.
  • When dealing with criminals that have a history of violence or intimidation take appropriate precautions to ensure your team's safety and do not give criminals home telephone numbers and addresses. Such filming should generally be approved in advance by the commissioning editor and programme lawyer. A filming and security protocol will normally be drawn up.
  • Be aware that individuals admitting criminal behaviour on camera could be investigated or even prosecuted after transmission and the film, including rushes, could be obtained by the police by a court order and used as evidence [see 'Police Search Powers and Journalistic Material'] . Criminals tend to deny earlier admissions of criminality if challenged, so be appropriately wary, do not take what they say and do at face value. Be conscious of the fact they may deny what they have said later on and that they may try to blame you in some way. See also Viewer Trust Guidelines.

Not Assisting in Criminal Activity

  • If a programme-maker assists any criminal activity they too are likely to be guilty of a criminal offence.
  • Whenever filming criminal activity, always remain as passive observers. Do nothing that could be deemed as encouraging, inciting or assisting criminal activity.
  • Note: sometimes programme-makers deliberately undertake activities which put them at risk of being arrested and charged with a criminal offence, for example, they involve themselves in illegal activity in order ultimately to expose it. Such activities can be justifiable in the public interest. However, they require very careful consideration, research and preparation and must not be undertaken before detailed legal advice has been sought. Always refer to your commissioning editor and programme lawyer for advice before undertaking any activity which could amount to a criminal offence.