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HIGH COURT CHALLENGE TO COUNCIL'S RELEASE OF CCTV FOOTAGE

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court ref no: CO/1673/96 ...
court ref no: CO/1673/96

A would-be suicide whose attempt to slash his wrists was shown on television to an audience of 9.2 million was today granted leave in London's high court to challenge the local authority which released the footage.

In a case believed to be the first of its kind, the court heard van driver Geoffery Peck, 41, was horrified when he saw trailers of his suicide bid, captured on a closed circuit television system installed by his local council to prevent crime, broadcast to advertise BBC1's Crime Beat.

Although his face was blotted out for the actual programme it was shown on the trailers and, said Mr Peck outside court: 'Anyone who knew me would have recognised me.'

Mr Peck immediately complained to Brentwood BC only to discover the footage had also been released to Anglia Television and Central Television, as well as local papers.

To this day, he said, he has not received an apology from the council.

Outside court he said: 'If they had said: 'We're sorry, there's been a cock-up, this wasn't meant to happen,' that would have been the end of it.

'Instead they've done nothing. I'm here to stop this happening to anyone else.

'I've got no problems with the cameras in principle. But they're there to prevent crime and that's what they should be used for, not to provide cheap salacious TV.'

During today's hearing, Mr Peck's counsel Richard Gordon QC, told high court judge Mr Justice Hidden his client had attempted to kill himself on August 20, 1995.

The suicide bid, off the High Street, in Brentwood, was caught on the CCTV and police were alerted.

They rushed to the scene to rescue Mr Peck and today he said he was 'very grateful' they had spotted the attempt on the cameras.

He told reporters: 'I didn't know what I was doing at the time. I'd just lost my job and my girlfriend had been diagnosed terminally ill, and I had a two-and-a-half-year-old baby. I was just very depressed.'

After his rescue Mr Peck, a former barman, tried to put the episode behind him, only to discover his tragedy was to be broadcast to millions.

Mr Gordon said: 'The consequences have been extremely distressing and humiliating.'

He argued the council had no statutory power to release the footage to the media, and even if they had a power, the cameras had been installed to prevent crime and the release of the footage did nothing to further that aim.

Further, he added, the release was in contradiction of the council's own policy guidelines that the CCTV camera should not be used to intrude on people's privacy.

Granting leave for a full judicial review of Mr Peck's case, Mr Justice Hidden said: 'I am satisfied on your arguments that you have an arguable case.

'I am expressing no views at all as to its likelihood of success'.

Outside court Philip Leach, of pressure group Liberty, which is funding Mr Peck's case, said the case demonstrated 'the fundamental need for a law of privacy.'

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