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No Big Brother for Boy George

23 December 2009

Boy George will not be allowed to take part in the last Big Brother television show after a judge refused to overrule the probation service's decision that there was too great a risk it could undermine confidence in the criminal justice system.

The singer turned DJ, who appeared under his real name of George O’Dowd,

brought judicial review proceedings claiming that the refusal was irrational.

Boy George was convicted of false imprisonment in December last year and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. He has been on release for the latter part of his sentence, serving it under home curfew until 31 August, and is now on licence until 15 April 2010.

Big Brother’s producer, Endemol, approached the singer in September asking him to take part in the final series of Celebrity Big Brother, due to air on Channel 4 from 3 January 2010.

Although Boy George had been allowed some media appearances, the prison service refused Endemol’s request.

In a letter explaining his decision, chief probation officer Paul Wilson told Boy George it would undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system if it became known that he had been allowed, while being punished for an offence, to take part in “a high profile, controversial television production that would promote your status as a celebrity an earn you a lucrative sum of money”.

Endemol had given assurances that broadcast was not truly live but delayed by 15 minutes, which would allow the editors to remove any mention of Boy George's sentence.

But Wilson said "there would be no control over the content of news articles in the national media. This raises a high level of risk to the reputation of London Probation".

Giving the ruling in R (George O'Dowd) v National Probation Service London [2009] EWHC 3415 (Admin), Mr Justice Bean said that "right-thinking members of the public would take the view that an offender serving the non-custodial part of a sentence of imprisonment should not be allowed to take part in a high profile, controversial television production, promoting his status as a celebrity and with considerable financial gain".

He added that the chief officer was reasonably entitled to reach this view. Citing Lord Diplock in the CCSU case, he said this decision was not "so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it".

Boy George's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, was snowbound in Amsterdam. Alison McDonald appeared for the singer instead.

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Procedures Police & Prisons Charities Vulnerable Clients