7/7 footage withheld from public to protect privacy of victims and their families

14 January 2011

The Coroner conducting the inquest into the terror attacks in London on 7 July 2005 has ordered that certain footage shown in court of the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks should not be released to the media.

Lady Justice Hallet reached this decision despite being "acutely conscious" of the principles of open justice, and despite the footage having been shown in open court.

The footage which the Coroner refused to release consists of two films: one showing graphic images of the devastation in the aftermath of the attack (which was not shown in court and the release of which was not sought), and the other an edited version with individuals pixelated but personal effects remaining. The BBC, ITN, BSkyB and Guardian News and Media, in a joint application, asked that the second film, which was shown in court, be released to the media and placed on the Inquest website.  It was argued that it was not necessary or proportionate to restrict the disclosure and as such there was no reason to curtail the media's Article 10 rights or the principles of open justice.

The Coroner stressed she was not prohibiting the reporting of the fact that the footage had been shown in court, and ordered the release of an edited version of the footage with personal effects cut out. However she considered that the principle of open justice did not extend to require the release of a copy of every document or photograph used in open court to the media. This is particularly the case where the material is graphic or would cause distress to others, in this case the victims' family.

The Coroner further concluded, contrary to the submissions of the media, that she had discretion to prevent the release of the material and it was in any event necessary and proportionate to prohibit the release to protect the interests and the privacy of the bereaved families and survivors.

See further chapter 10 of the Privacy Law Handbook

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