Producers Handbook

Assisting Criminal Activity

Care is needed when filming criminal activity. It is an offence to "aid, abet, counsel or procure" the commission of most criminal offences, that is liability for a criminal offence may be incurred either as a principal offender or as an accessory. Whilst each of these words has not been authoritatively determined, assisting or encouraging criminal activity is likely to amount to an offence. What constitutes 'assisting' is often much less than people think. For example, allowing a criminal to use your telephone or giving a criminal a lift in a car could, in certain circumstances, be deemed to be assisting the commission of a criminal offence.

Whenever filming criminal activity, programme-makers must always remember to remain as passive observers and do nothing that could be deemed as encouraging, inciting or assisting criminal activity.

Here are some basic rules programme-makers should always follow:

  • Be scrupulous to avoid a charge of encouraging or inciting or aiding or abetting any criminal behaviour. Bear in mind that the criminals being filmed may later allege this. It is important that the rushes can be used to refute any such allegations;
  • Your role is to observe not participate;
  • Never provoke or encourage behaviour in those you are filming with, which would not otherwise have occurred;
  • Think carefully before making any payment to a criminal - is the payment in the public interest? For regulatory provisions regarding payments to criminals see 'Payments'. In addition, any payment to a criminal must, save in exceptional circumstances, be approved by Channel 4 in advance.

Note: when filming with criminals and the issue of payment arises and there is arguably a public interest in making such payment, this must be referred to Channel 4 for discussion and approval. Where, in exceptional circumstances, this is not possible or practical, the most senior editorial person present should make the decision whether or not to make the payment. Any such payment must be referred to the broadcaster as soon as reasonably practicable.