Releasing video footage of the moment when would have put lives at risk in the UK and elsewhere, three of the country’s leading judges ruled.
Some media organisations had argued that three clips showing the build-up and actual shooting ought to be shown on public interest grounds, but the judges said they must not be published because the footage would have been used by terrorists as a radicalisation tool.
Giving their reasons in detail for the first time on Tuesday, the judges accepted that mainstream media would have used the clips responsibly, but added: “It is self-evident that the three clips could be misused by others.”
They added in their judgment: “There was no doubt in our minds that the release of the three clips would significantly endanger a large number of people, not only in the UK but elsewhere.”
Paul Wilson, the head of the Home Office’s research and communications unit, had explained to the judges that any broadcast of the clips would be seized upon by terrorists and used to radicalise others.
Summarising his position, the judgment said: “It would provide terrorists with material they could use to underpin their ‘justification’ for undertaking terrorist attacks against the western powers and to underpin their extremist narrative at a tactical and strategic level.
“They would use it to argue that western powers are corrupt, do not adhere to their own rules such as the military rules of engagement and the , and claim that this was the way the armed forces of the western powers treat insurgents on the battlefield.”
Wilson also explained to the court how since the video was discovered terrorists such as Islamic State had become more sophisticated in how they used social media.
He said that in the three years since the footage emerged “nothing had been seen that surpassed it in terms of radicalisation potential”.