The BBC was guilty of censorship in refusing to screen the Pro-Life Alliance's party election broadcast, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The appeal court judges unanimously declared that the corporation's decision not to screen the broadcast was unlawful. The decision is the first time a successful judicial review has been brought against the Corporation. In his leading judgement, Lord Justice Laws, said: "The reader of this judgement will see that I have used the word 'censorship' from the first sentence. I have well in mind that the broadcasters do not at all accept their decision should be so categorised. Maybe the feathers of their liberal credentials are ruffled at the word's overtones; maybe there is an implicit plea for the comfort of a euphemism. However in my judgement this court must and I hope the broadcasters recognise unblinking that censorship is exactly what this case is about." The court ruled that the advert contained 'nothing gratuitous or sensational or untrue' and that the broadcasters 'failed to give sufficient weight to the pressing imperative of free political expression." The BBC had refused to screen an unedited version of the ad on the grounds of 'taste and decency'. David Pannick QC for the BBC argued that no censorship was involved because the Pro-Life Alliance could describe abortion verbally. The court rejected this as "unreal". Lord Justice Simon Brown, said: "Words alone cannot convey the essential character of the foetus and the nature of its destruction by abortion." The Pro-Life Alliance hailed the victory as 'a resounding defence of the freedom of political speech.' Bruno Quintavalle, leader of the Pro-Life Alliance, said: "This judgement signals the beginning of the end of legal abortion in the United Kingdom. Once our country sees the truth, they will know that abortion even in the earliest stages is an act of terrible violence which kills a human being. When the history of the repeal of abortion comes to be told, people will look back at the courageous judgement of the Court of Appeal as a decisive turning point." The BBC will seek leave to appeal the verdict in the House of Lords. A spokesperson for the BBC said: "We are very concerned about the effects of this decision. The broadcasters have been entrusted by parliament with the obligation not to broadcast material that offends against good taste or decency or is likely to be offensive to public feeling. This obligation has effectively been overridden by the court of appeal for the purposes of party election broadcasts save in the most exceptional of circumstances. This means that viewers may be subjected to material that will cause widespread and gross offence."
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