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Case Details: Ali & Aslam v Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited
“Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away” (CPWTIA) is described by Channel 5 as a documentary series that follows the work of High Court enforcement officers as they execute High Court writs across the UK, on those who have failed to make repayments on a debt or reuse to vacate a property.
Mr Ali and Mrs Aslam were evicted on 2 April 2015 by two High Court Enforcement Officers who were accompanied by the Landlord’s son and a film crew from Brinkworth Films. The eviction was filmed by the production company’s main camera as well as by body cameras worn by the HCEOs. Selected segments of the footage recorded were then broadcast by Channel 5’s programme Can’t Pay we’ll take it away (CPWTIA). The broadcast included footage of the Claimants bedroom, as well as footage of Mr Ali being woken up by the HCEOs in his night clothes whilst still drowsy from sleep and with a broken foot. Mr Ali suffers from a heart condition and understandably found the incident distressing. Their children were bullied in school as a result of the broadcast.
Channel 5 has now disclosed the CPWTIA programme was broadcast 36 times (23 times after the Claimants’ letter of claim) and was viewed over 9.6 million times. Channel 5 has also disclosed the unedited footage which shows the HCEO apparently encouraging the Landlord’s son to try and stir up the situation to make for better television viewing.
Hamlins first to bring claim against Channel 5 for the programme
Whilst there have been a number of complaints investigated by Ofcom into the CPWTIA programme, as far as we are aware, there have been no other claims go to Trial against Channel 5 for breach of privacy in relation to this programme.
In response to the letter of claim in the Ali & Aslam case, Channel 5 relied on previous OFCOM decisions to support their argument that they did not breach Mr Ali and Mrs Aslam’s privacy. The Claimants disputed their relevance as there were very different factual circumstances. There has since been an OFCOM decision on 30 October 2017 where OFCOM did uphold the complaint and find that Channel 5 were in breach stating that “In Ofcom’s view, the interference with the complainants’ rights to privacy in this case was significant and of such a nature and gravity as to outweigh the public interest in programming of this nature and the wider Article 10 rights of the broadcaster and programme makers”.
The case goes to trial on 5 February 2018.