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Subject: news: TV Company wins scientology court case
Date: 21 Sep 1995 20:30:29 +0200
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Copyright 1995 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution,
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Magistrates today dismissed private summonses issued by the Church of
Scientology over an investigative television programme's under-cover
efforts to examine its activities.
Lawyers for the London-based production company Twenty Twenty
Television successfully argued before City of London magistrates that
the summonses represented "an abuse of process".
The Dianetics and Scientology Mission had brought the case under the
Theft Act, alleging that in May and June the company, reporter Alison
Braund and producer Claudia Milne dishonestly obtained entry to two
courses held at the mission's centre in Poole, Dorset.
It alleged that the journalists falsely representing the purpose of
their participation as being exclusively religious and spiritual.
The summonses were issued two days before a programme broadcast in
Carlton Television's The Big Story series, presented by Dermot
Murnaghan, in July.
When the summonses were issued, Miss Milne said the Church of
Scientology was trying to gag it. An attempt was made to have the
programme banned before the broadcast, but the Attorney General rejected
The Church of Scientology, which is based at East Grinstead, West
Sussex, took out the private summonses after the Crown Prosecution
Service declined to prosecute over its allegations.
Today, Peter Thornton, for Twenty Twenty Television and the two
women, told magistrates: "This is an abuse of process and the summonses
should be dismissed."
The bench agreed and costs of 15,410 were awarded against the
Magistrates' chairman Mrs Hinda Style said: "We consider there has
been an abuse of process because the actions of the prosecution in
bringing this particular prosecution pre-empted the decision of the
Crown Prosecution Service and that taking out the summonses was
Afterwards Miss Braund said: "It's a great decision. It's a real
victory for journalists doing their job in the interest of the public
and a victory against pressure groups like the Church of Scientology who
harass people through the courts.
"I shall carry on investigating," declared Miss Braund who had used
spectacles containing a small camera to film inside the Poole Mission as
well as having a tape recorder concealed in her belt.
A statement from the prosecution tonight said: "The Dianetics and
Scientology Mission of Bournmouth is taking legal advice and considering
seeking a judicial review of the magistrates' decision."
Earlier, Mr Thornton told the court the religion involved "hypnotic
elements, brainwashing and taking money".
He said the prosecution did not know the CPS would not proceed when
it obtained the summonses on July 11 and it obtained them because it
realised the material was to be broadcast on July 13.
Michael Hill QC, prosecuting, said there had been no attempt to
mislead the court over the issuing of the summonses and its aim was not
to stop the programme but to prevent the misuse of the material obtained
by Miss Braund.