Leak blew Daly's cover

A pilot copy of BBC documentary The Secret Policeman was leaked to the police and led to journalist Mark Daly’s cover being blown.

BBC head of programme legal advice Glenn Del Medico, above left, made the revelation while telling the conference about the legal precautions the corporation took on the story. Daly spent seven months investigating racism among police recruits by going through police training himself.

He was arrested in August after police received the leaked video and charged him with obtaining money by deception, damaging police property and “false documentation”.

Del Medico revealed that the BBC avoided the first of the three charges by offering to repay Daly’s wages, the cost of his training and the value of any materials used by him.

The second charge related to the removal of a few stitches from Daly’s flak jacket to insert a hidden camera. Del Medico said he was not sure what the third charge meant.

He said: “The threat of proceedings against Mr Daly was recently withdrawn by the Greater Manchester Police, so we shall never know whether the steps taken by the BBC – which included an offer by your speaker to attend Manchester Police Headquarters with a needle and thread – would have proved effective.”

Del Medico revealed that Manchester Police declined the opportunity to respond to the allegations – even though they had seen a version of the programme before broadcast. He said: “The police fought like hell to stop that programme going out, even though they knew what was on it.”

On the subject of defending libel actions, Del Medico emphasised the importance of journalists taking detailed notes if they were going to use the defence of justification.

Making reference to the palm-top notes made by Andrew Gilligan during his now infamous interview with Dr David Kelly, he said: “It is of great importance for evidence to be recorded and the most detailed notes taken.”

He said that palm-top notes are “next to useless” in proving a justification defence in a libel dispute.

Speaker notes from the conference are available at £90 plus VAT. For details, e-mail andreah@qpp.co.uk

DOMINIC PONSFORD AND JON SLATTERY REPORT FROM THE PRESS GAZETTE/NEWSPAPER SOCIETY LAW FOR JOURNALISTS CONFERENCE

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