Channel 5 has had to pay out damages for breaching the privacy of a couple who were filmed being evicted for a documentary.
A film crew followed a bailiff and landlord into Shakir Ali and Shahida Aslam’s flat early in the morning in Barking, Essex, as they entered to evict them and their two children.
The bailiff, Paul Bohill, had told the landlord to “give it some wellie” as he dealt with the couple because it “makes good television”.
The subsequent confrontation, in which Ali and Aslam were ordered to leave in one hour, was broadcast as part of the series Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away and was subsequently viewed by 9.65 million people.
Its repeated broadcasts led to the couple’s daughter being bullied at school, a judgement handed down by the High Court said.
“Our privacy and our dignity were hit very badly [by the broadcast],” the father told his daughter’s headteacher.
The High Court on Thursday ruled the couple’s privacy was breached and ordered they each receive £10,000.
Channel 5 argued that covering the issue of evictions and rising costs of living were in the public interest.
But the judge, Mr Justice Arnold, said of the filming: “The focus of the programme was the drama of the conflict between landlord and tenants.”
He also rejected Channel 5′s claim the couple waived their privacy when they agreed to be interviewed on camera, more than an hour after the film crew first entered.
Mr Justice Arnold said Ali had been woken up when the landlord, bailiff and film crew entered the flat and was “clearly drowsy and confused” when he came to the door of his bedroom to ask what they were doing.
He also noted the couple repeatedly objected and questioned why they were being filmed.
“In my view he was not in a fit state to give informed consent then. He was in a fit state to do so [by the time of the camera interview an hour later], but I do not consider that, by giving an interview then, he can be taken retrospectively to have given his consent to the broadcasting of material filmed when he was not in a position to consent to,” the judge ruled.
A spokesman for Channel 5 said: “Channel 5 welcomes the Judge’s assessment, which recognises that the programme is made in good faith and in the public interest.
“We are encouraged by the Judge’s acceptance that Channel 5’s editorial discretion extended to the presentation of the story, the tone of the programme and the material included, providing a fair and accurate account of the eviction of the claimants.
“We also note that the case’s final verdict was based on the specific facts related to a segment involving the Ali family and not the series in general.”