MI5 spy at centre of legal case to stop BBC broadcast is 'dangerous extremist'

High Court hears agent is accused of using his work to 'terrorise and control' women

The UK High Court has rejected the attorney general's attempt to have hearing involving details of an MI5 spy held behind closed doors.  AFP

A British MI5 agent at the heart of a legal battle to prevent the BBC from broadcasting a programme about him is accused of being a “dangerous extremist” who used his secret work to “terrorise and control” a partner, London's High Court has heard.

The details emerged during a legal battle by the UK attorney general, Suella Braverman, who is seeking an injunction against the BBC to stop it running a programme about the spy, known as X, who works overseas.

The government has failed in its attempt to have a hearing next week heard in secret on the grounds that national security could be damaged if the case was heard in public.

Mr Justice Chamberlain rejected the arguments and concluded there was “no good reason” for holding the hearings in private.

“The BBC wants to broadcast a programme about an individual, 'X'," he said.

“The programme is to include the allegations that X is a dangerous extremist and misogynist who physically and psychologically abused two former female partners; that X is also a covert human intelligence source (variously referred to as a 'CHIS' or an 'agent') for the Security Service (MI5); that X told one of these women that he worked for MI5 in order to terrorise and control her; and that MI5 should have known about X's behaviour and realised that it was inappropriate to use him as a CHIS.

“The BBC says that the broadcast of this story, and the identification of X by name, is in the public interest.

“The attorney general has brought a claim for an injunction to prevent the BBC from broadcasting the programme. The attorney's stance has been that she can neither confirm nor deny that X is or was a CHIS, other than in closed proceedings.

“She submits, however, that irrespective of the truth of the allegation, the BBC's proposed broadcast would (a) involve a breach of confidence or false confidence, (b) create a real and immediate risk to the life, safety and private life of X and (c) damage the public interest and national security.”

The BBC was said to have learnt about the story after X told an unspecified third party that he worked for MI5. The broadcaster “obtained this information from the third party”.

Mr Justice Chamberlain said parts of the case must be heard in public and a full hearing will begin on March 1.

“The principle of open justice requires not only that the conclusions reached by courts be given in public,” he said.

“It also requires that the process by which those conclusions are reached should take place in public, unless there is a compelling reason for taking a different course.

“That applies with particular force to a case where the government is deploying public resources, in what it says is the public interest, to restrain a publicly funded broadcaster from broadcasting information whose publication it claims to be in the public interest.”

Updated: February 25, 2022, 12:18 PM