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Injunction granted over BBC ‘MI5 informant’ story

The attorney general has attained a High Court injunction to prevent the BBC from revealing the identity of an alleged MI5 informant who is supposedly ‘a dangerous extremist and misogynist who physically and psychologically abused two female partners’.

An interim injunction was applied for by Suella Braverman MP, to prevent the broadcaster revealing the identity of a man known only as X, who is assumed to be a ‘covert human intelligence source’ (CHIS). She maintained that revealing X’s name or picture would ‘cause real damage to national security’ and result in ‘a real and immediate risk that X would be killed or subject to serious physical harm’.

However, the BBC stated that there was a robust public interest in distinguishing X, who they argued ‘used his status as a CHIS to coerce and terrify his partner’, which should have resulted in MI5 stopping using him as a CHIS.

The broadcaster additionally highlighted evidence of X’s violent behaviour towards two former partners, one of who supplied a video showing X attacking her with a ‘dangerous weapon’.

Nonetheless, Mr Justice Chamberlain allowed the attorney general a provisional injunction to stop the broadcasting of X’s name and image, which he noted would cause ‘a real and immediate risk that X would be killed or seriously injured’.

The judge stated: ‘The BBC will still be able to convey what it regards as the core elements of its story, including the allegation that X abused his CHIS status and the allegation that MI5 is at fault for using or continuing to use him as a CHIS.’

He also noted that the injunction symbolises ‘a significant interference with the BBC’s right to freedom of expression’, but commented that the order ‘will not prevent the BBC from making the allegations central to its story’.

A spokesperson for the BBC stated: ‘We fought the case to try to tell as fully as possible two women’s stories and their experiences with X – his abuse of them and his use of his status as an MI5 intelligence source to coerce and terrify one of them, behaviour we say MI5 should have known about and that should have caused them to stop working with X.’ They further noted that the broadcaster is taking into account ‘whether there is a basis to appeal’.

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