AN OCD sufferer is suing Channel 5 for £100,000 after finding bailiffs and a TV crew in her home.
Natasha Lowe was shocked to discover strangers picking through her possessions and stomping over her carpet while filming Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!.
Ms Lowe, who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, said she “experienced a tightening of the chest and had difficulty breathing” as a result of the ordeal.
She was even forced to reach for an asthma inhaler after discovering the two bailiffs and three-man film crew shooting the episode in her flat.
She says bailiffs involved in the programme – which follows debt collectors – told her they were going to haul away £6,000 worth of goods because of debts allegedly owed by her then-boyfriend Daniel White to his ex-girlfriend.
Ms Lowe, who was using crutches due to medical problems at the time, says her OCD “exacerbated the upset” of encountering five random people in her home “touching her possessions and walking on her carpet”.
In a case filed at the High Court, she is now suing for invasion of privacy by “misuse of her private information”.
She has complained that her distress was broadcast to “many millions” of viewers and is demanding up to £100,000 compensation.
Her case has been brought against Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd and Brinkworth Films Ltd, which makes and produces the series.
She is also suing debt recovery firm Direct Collection Bailiffs Ltd, whose officers entered her home alongside the film crew in February 2016.
But all three companies deny any wrongdoing and say Ms Lowe had no “expectation of privacy” as she had consented to being interviewed on camera.
Ms Lowe claims the first she knew of the home invasion was when she received a phone call from Mr White while commuting to work.
He reportedly told her that “bailiffs had attended her flat and were going to seize her possessions unless she could prove that she owned them”.
‘STATE OF PANIC’
She believes that her home had been targeted because of debts accumulated by her then-partner.
Ms Lowe rushed home in a “state of panic”, and her anxiety spiralled when she walked in and saw bailiffs sifting through her stuff.
“She had to use a blue asthma inhaler because she experienced a tightening of the chest and had difficulty breathing during the incident,” explains her barrister William Bennett QC in claim documents.
Ms Lowe, then of Pettacre Close, Woolwich, southeast London, says the TV crew left her home due to her clearly distressed state, but the bailiffs continued to film her using bodycams.
“She infers that one or more persons from the film crew watched and/or listened to and/or recorded events occurring inside the flat via a wireless transmission from (the) bodycams,” her lawyer adds.
Although she did then consent to being interviewed on camera, Ms Lowe says she did so on the basis that it would not be broadcast without her consent.
But her misery was then made worse when the programme aired to more than six million viewers between September 2016 to November 2017, it is claimed.
Channel 5 ended up putting out two versions of the bailiffs’ visit – the first with Ms Lowe’s face in view and the second with her features obscured.
In court papers, her lawyer claims she had a “reasonable expectation” that nothing filmed inside her home would be shown to the outside world without her permission.
She was entitled to expect absolute privacy when it came to her home interior and items such as family photos and Valentine’s cards, they add.
She had to use a blue asthma inhaler because she experienced a tightening of the chest and had difficulty breathing during the incident
William Bennett QC
The lawyer continues that it was unacceptable to show footage of her “visibly crying, behaving in a way which she would never behave in public, swearing at the (bailiffs) and generally behaving aggressively because she was upset by the way they were handling her possessions and walking on her carpet – which partly arose from her OCD”.
“She further reasonably expected that the patronising and humiliating way she was spoken to by the High Court enforcement officers would not be broadcast,” they add.
However, in a written defence to the claim on behalf of Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd and Brinkworth Films Ltd, Antony White QC denies Ms Lowe’s “private information” was misused.
On arrival at the property, the film crew had been allowed inside by Ms Lowe’s former partner but had then left when she returned and asked them to leave, only to change her mind later.
“Around an hour after the claimant returned to her flat and consented to being interviewed by the film crew and permitted them to re-enter the flat for this purpose,” he says.
He adds that Ms Lowe “made it clear she consented” and “appeared to be relaxed and smiling at the film crew when giving the interview”.
He also denies that Ms Lowe was told that the interview would not be broadcast without her consent.
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For the debt collection company, Guy Vassall-Adams QC also denies that anything inappropriate was done and claims Ms Lowe had consented to being filmed.
He argues she would have been aware she was still being filmed when the film crew were outside as the bailiffs’ cameras were clear and obvious on their clothing.
All three companies say there was nothing wrong in broadcasting the material since it showed matters of “general interest,” including how debts are enforced by courts.
Papers for the claim have been filed at the High Court, but the case has not yet appeared before a judge.