BBC launches new Spycatcher investigation as Government attempts to stop a BBC story that it claims is ‘overwhelmingly important’

  • Suella Braverman will ask the High Court for a block on BBC’s news article
  • This story concerns a spy operating overseas, and Govt claims it will “risk lives.” 
  • BBC says story is “in the public interest” and “fully consistent with editorial standards

It was announced late last night that the Government has sought an injunction against BBC for a potentially explosive story on a spy who worked overseas. 

Suella Braverman, Attorney General, is asking the High Court for gag orders on the broadcast of the news. He claims it poses a risk to lives and one source warns: “This isn’t James Bond, these are real people.” 

However, the BBC insists on continuing the segment. It claims the story is in the public’s interest and in compliance with editorial guidelines. 

This saga reminds me of the Spycatcher Book Affair from Margaret Thatcher’s years. In that case, the Government tried to stop newspapers publishing claims made in a book by ex-MI5 agent Peter Wright. In 1988, they lost the bid to injunct them.   

One source said to the Telegraph that there would be “huge disquiet” if the BBC’s news story was allowed to proceed ahead of the secret court hearing. 

They told the newspaper: ‘It is really serious – there are serious risks. This would constitute a major security compromise.

Attorney General Suella Braverman (pictured) is set to ask the High Court to gag the upcoming news broadcast, claiming it presents a 'risk to people's lives', while one source warned: 'This is not James Bond - these are real people.'

Suella Braverman, the Attorney General of Texas, will ask the High Court not to broadcast the newscast. She claims that it is a danger to the lives of people. One source said: “This is not James Bond. These are real people.”

The BBC wants to go ahead with the segment, claiming the story is 'overwhelmingly in the public interest' and 'fully in line' with its editorial standards (file photo)

BBC is ready to continue with segment. It claims that the story is “overwhelmingly in public interest” and that it conforms with editorial standards. File photo

The saga is reminiscent of the Spycatcher book affair from the Margaret Thatcher years - which saw the Government attempt to prevent newspapers from publishing allegations made in a tell-all novel by former MI5 agent Peter Wright (pictured). They eventually lost their bid for an injunction in 1988.

This saga reminds me of the Spycatcher Book Affair from Margaret Thatcher’s years. In that case, the Government tried to stop newspapers publishing claims made in a book by ex-MI5 agent Peter Wright. The bid to get an injunction was ultimately rejected in 1988.

Spycatcher: The explosive memoirs of an MI5 agent, Spycatcher, and how the British government failed to catch it. They claim that a former boss in the secret service was in fact a Soviet mole  

Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Government, tried to block newspapers’ publication of allegations from a book by Peter Wright (ex-MI5 agent) about false accusations. 

The first time they began a legal struggle was 1985 when Spycatcher was published in Australia. 

It lost its appeal and the book was no longer a bestseller. By 1987, the US had sold 400,000 copies.   

The Government was able to temporarily injunct the publication of the details in Britain but the information’s dissemination around the globe rendered the UK gagging order practically meaningless.    

The media were allowed to publish extracts taken from the memoirs if they do not cause any harm to national security. 

For disclosing secret information about MI5, Wright was called a “traitor” by some. 

In the controversial book, the secret service was accused of going against the law while intelligence chiefs charged the ex-agent with fabricating stories. 

The MI5 website still reads today: ‘An internal MI5 assessment found convincing evidence of ‘dishonesty on the part of Wright, who did not scruple to invent evidence where none existed’ to support the conspiracy theories in his memoirs.’

In the book, Prime Minister Harold Wilson is claimed to have been the victim of an MI5 conspiracy. The former boss of MI5, Roger Hollis was also claimed to be a mole for Soviet Russia during the 1960s. 

Wright was 78 when he died in April 1995 as a millionaire.

The source said that identifying the spy would have “very serious consequences” for BBC and could pose a threat to lives. 

They are risking their life. This is not James Bond – these are real people.’

Although the BBC refused to discuss the details, it told The Telegraph that the BBC was reporting in the public interest. 

According to a spokesperson for the BBC, “The Attorney General” has initiated proceedings against BBC in order to obtain an injunction that would prevent publication of any proposed BBC news article.

“We cannot comment on this at the moment, other than to confirm that we wouldn’t pursue any story unless it is overwhelmingly in public interest and in full compliance with the BBC editorial standards and values.

MailOnline reached out to the broadcaster for more information. 

According to a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, the following statement was made: “The Attorney General has filed an action against the BBC. 

“It would not be appropriate to comment further whilst proceedings are ongoing.”   

However, a legal expert cautioned the Government that the Government must prove the plot is a “credible threat” to national security if the article is published. If it does so, the Government will face allegations of abuse of courts. 

Geoffrey Robertson QC told the Telegraph: ‘The British judiciary remains fairly amenable to government claims of national security – which is the most frequent bogus claim that is brought. 

“As it is kept secret, any claims which would be ridicule are considered serious by the judiciary that is not prepared to challenge this Government.

Since 2007, 15 years have passed since the BBC was shut down by the Government. This happened after Lord Goldsmith, Labour’s Labour counterpart, received an injunction regarding allegations of cash-for-honours back in 2007.  

Because it showed that the broadcast of confidential information would harm a Metropolitan Police enquiry, this particular claim was successful.  

This latest bid for injunction comes days after Nadine Dorries, Culture Secretary to the BBC, announced that she would freeze the license fee for two years.

A social media post by the Liverpudlian MP threatens to end the vital fee entirely, leaving broadcaster in an unfunded black hole that can reach into the millions. 

The latest injunction bid comes just days after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (pictured) announced she was was freezing the licence fee for the next two years in the latest souring of relations between the Government and the BBC

This latest injunction comes days after Nadine Dorries, Culture Secretary (pictured), announced that she would freeze the license fee for two years. It is the latest deterioration in relations between the BBC and Government.

The High Court will decide whether the gag order is temporary or permanent if it approves it. However, the BBC can appeal this ruling. 

For those without security clearance, the judge will provide a redacted judgment. This allows them to see sensitive information such as. for the general public as well as news organizations. 

In the court fight, the BBC’s rights to freedom of speech will be weighed against any potential threats to national security.