Watchdog rejects criticism of Fred West series

A controversial series about killers Fred and Rose West - which prompted an appeal to the Attorney General to prevent its screening - has been cleared by a broadcasting watchdog.

A controversial series about killers Fred and Rose West - which prompted an appeal to the Attorney General to prevent its screening - has been cleared by a broadcasting watchdog.

The Channel 5 programme prompted complaints about the use of such horrific events for entertainment and the inclusion of tapes of Fred West’s voice.

But the Broadcasting Standards Commission rejected criticisms, saying the series Fred And Rose - The West Murders was a ‘‘serious, unsensationalised’’ effort to understand their motivation.

The programmes were screened in October after Gloucestershire Police had failed in their efforts to block the broadcast.

The force wanted the Attorney General to stop the programmes on the grounds that they amounted to contempt of court. But the request was refused.

Channel 5 agreed that most people would find West’s crimes distasteful - but that did not stop the case being a valid subject for a documentary.

The idea was to place the killings in context to gain an insight into why they took place and how Fred West evolved from a sex offender to a serial killer.

The station warned viewers about the content before each of the three episodes and had contacted relatives of victims and members of the West family.

The BSC said in its report: ‘‘The subject matter was indeed grisly but (the BSC’s standards panel) took the view that the subject had been treated seriously and sensitively, and much of the horror had been hinted at rather than fully described.

‘‘The panel considered that this had culminated in a serious, unsensationalised attempt to understand what in the Wests’ backgrounds made them capable of such crimes.’’

Although the programme may have been distressing for members of the West family, several had taken part in the programme, the BSC noted.

:: Channel 4’s Brass Eye Special about paedophiles has been cleared of duping celebrities to take part in the show.

The BSC found: ‘‘Some amongst the audience may have felt uncomfortable watching the contributions of the apparently well-meaning but deceived individuals.

‘‘However .... in the context of a satirical programme with a serious purpose, neither the appearance nor the involvement of the public figures was likely to have caused widespread offence.’’

ITN’s Nicholas Owen, chart star Phil Collins and TV presenter Richard Blackwood were among those who unwittingly took part in the show.

Channel 4 was forced to broadcast an apology last year following the programme’s screening after it caused outrage and a flood of complaints.

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