While there is no general legal duty to inform the authorities of potential criminal acts that are either filmed or which contributors have disclosed on- or off-camera, in certain limited circumstances there is a legal duty to inform the authorities of specific criminal acts, e.g., where terrorist offences are involved, and there may be circumstances where Channel 4 believes that there is an ethical duty to inform the authorities depending on the facts of a particular case.
It is therefore essential that you take early advice from your commissioning editor and content lawyer/compliance advisor.
The Terrorism Act 2000
The Terrorism Act 2000 places a positive duty to disclose information relating to terrorist offences. A serious offence is committed (carrying a penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment or a fine or both, if tried in the Crown Court) if a person, without reasonable excuse, fails to disclose information that they know or believe might be of material assistance in preventing the commission, by another person, of an act of terrorism, or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person in the UK for an offence involving the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
In addition, it is also an offence if a person fails to inform the police where he/she believes or suspects that certain offences relating to the funding of suspected terrorists have been committed (again carrying a maximum penalty of up to 5 years' imprisonment or a fine or both, if tried in the Crown Court).
The Terrorism Act 2006
The Terrorism Act 2006 introduced an offence, commonly referred to as the 'glorification of terrorism' offence, which criminalises statements which encourage – whether directly or indirectly – or induce acts of terrorism. The offence is committed by the publication of statements that glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism (whether in the past or in the future). On conviction, the offence carries a penalty of up to 7 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine if tried in the Crown Court.
The Terrorism Act Section 8 also stipulates that it is an offence to attend any place where instruction or training is provided in connection with terrorism when you have knowledge or belief that is happening. Attendance by journalists at terrorist training camps or other facilities at home or abroad could fall foul of this provision.
All these provisions may be engaged by journalists making content about terrorism, especially undercover operations seeking to expose terrorism.
For this reason, any content dealing with or touching upon terrorist activity must be referred to the content lawyer/compliance advisor at a very early stage and, where possible, even before research begins. Content-makers must not conduct interviews with known or suspected terrorists before having taken legal advice from the content lawyer/compliance advisor.
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