“Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!” endures its own day in Court

5th May 2021 Media Law

For those of us familiar with the popular Channel 5 show “Can’t Pay! We’ll Take It Away!”, we might have often wondered how people allowed a TV crew to record them in their own homes during such a vulnerable and low point in their lives. It turns out, in a case which recently came before the Court, they simply didn’t ask!

On 11 May 2017, two High Court Enforcement Agents attended the home of Mr Wain and Ms Kelly to recover a debt owed by Mr Wain. As TV viewers of the show will be aware, a film crew was also in attendance to film the enforcement action as it took place. Understandably, Mr Wain made it explicitly clear that he did not want the film crew to enter his home, nor did he want to be filmed.

However, the enforcement agents who entered the home were wearing bodycams and radio microphones, which allowed them to record video and audio footage of the enforcement. This was subsequently shown in a televised programme, and from its first broadcast in late 2017 until proceedings were issued by Mr Wain and Ms Kelly for misuse of private information in September 2020, the episode was broadcast to over 6.7 million viewers. 

Mr Wain and Ms Kelly described themselves as very private individuals and explained that news of the broadcast had spread rapidly within their tight knit community. The broadcast caused them both immense upset and distress.   

On 19 April 2021, in an out of Court settlement, Channel 5 agreed to:

  • Pay substantial damages to the Claimants;
  • Provide undertakings preventing rebroadcast of the programme;
  • Provide the Claimants with a public apology as part of an open statement read out in Court; and
  • Pay the Claimant’s reasonable legal costs.

The “substantial damages” were reflective of the very serious nature of the privacy intrusion and breach of their Article 8 rights which had been suffered.

Given that it appears this is not the first occasion that Channel 5 has been found in breach of privacy rights for its broadcast of this show, they may want to take heed of Mrs Justice Collins Rice’s comments in the Judgment.  The Judge said that whilst there is always a balancing exercise to be conducted between matters of public interest and the right to resect for private life, the facts of this case provide an opportunity for Channel 5 to reflect on how that balance is struck and how stories are approached in the future.

If you would like to discuss a potential breach of privacy claim then please do not hesitate to contact JMW’s Media, Data Privacy & Reputation Management Team on 0345 872 6666.​​​​​​

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Nick McAleenan is a Partner located in Manchester in our Media & Reputation Management; Data Protection & Privacy department

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