Litigation Recent Decisions 30/6/98

Request by television interviewee for injunctions

Robert Bunn v (1) British Broadcasting Corporation (2) Victor Gollancz Ltd (1998)

Ch.D (Lightman J) 19/6/9The plaintiff applied ex parte but on notice to the defendants for injunctions. The first was to restrain the first defendant, "the BBC', from including in a television broadcast, any material contained in an interview under caution with the City of London Police given by the plaintiff ("the statement'). The second was to restrain the second defendant, the publishers ("Gollancz'), from including such material in a book which it was publishing. Mr Bunn also sought an order that the defendants disclose the source from which they obtained a copy of the statement.

The statement was made pursuant to inquiries into the collapse of the Maxwell group of companies which led to charges of conspiracy to defraud being laid against Mr Bunn. Mr Bunn, who was Deputy Managing Director (Finance) of Robert Maxwell Group plc, was arrested in December 1992. During the course of the subsequent police interview he made the statement around which this action centres. The defendants' unchallenged evidence was that the statement contained admissions by Mr Bunn as to certain counts of alleged conspiracy to defraud the trustees of the Mirror Group pensions scheme and another pensions scheme. The indictment was severed by Phillips J in open court. In the event, Mr Bunn did not stand trial because of ill health and the other defendants were acquitted. A second trial was stayed on the ground that it would be oppressive and an abuse of process and it was ordered that all charges against Mr Bunn should be stayed. Much public criticism was directed at the Serious Fraud Office ("SFO') who had spent millions of pounds of public money without obtaining any convictions. In the wake of this, the BBC decided to produce the series of programmes entitled "The Fraudbusters", examining the work of the SFO. Gollancz agreed to publish a book of the series also by the same name. The programme which made reference to Mr Bunn's statement was the second in the series and was due to be broadcast on 21 June 1998. The hardback edition of the book had already been published by the time Mr Bunn was notified that the statement would also be referred to in book form. When Gollancz received notice of Mr Bunn's complaint, it froze the remaining stocks of the book in its warehouse but over 2,000 of the 3,000 print run had been distributed and some copies sold to the public.