A controversial documentary prevented from being shown after police intervened was screened to the public in Brighton last night.

On The Verge tells the story of protest group Smash EDO's campaign to close Brighton weapons manufacturer EDO MBM Technologies.

When the group tried to show the film on March 17 at the Duke of York's Picturehouse in Brighton, it was stopped after police contacted the council.

The officer warned that the cinema would be in breach of its licence by showing the film because it did not have a certificate from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

Staff at the cinema were contacted at 4.15pm, about two hours before the screening.

Smash EDO claims its freedom of speech had been interfered with and arranged a screening at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street.

Brighton human rights activist Graham Ennis said he was concerned that the banning of the film could set a legal precedent that would spell the end of independent film festivals in the city.

But a spokeswoman for the BBFC, which classifies films on behalf of local authorities and can be overruled by them, said the council was responsible for granting a licence for film festivals.

She said: "If you want to show a film in a licensed cinema, it has to be classified by us or by the local authority - or the cinema will be in breach of its licence under the Licensing Act.

"There is nothing illegal against showing a film in unlicensed premises because lots of film clubs do it. The problem for this film is that they tried to show it in a cinema."

A spokesman for the film's production company SchMovies said: "I am extremely disappointed but not entirely surprised by the police's action.

"As the screening has been widely advertised for at least six weeks, any certification issues could have been dealt with."

The cinema apologised for cancelling the screening.

Assistant manager Felicity Fenton said the film had been advertised since February and its certification had not been checked by staff.

She said: "If we show the public an uncertificated film we are in breach of our licence."

A spokesman for the city council said: "We've not been asked for permission because, under the Licensing Act 2003, films are not subject to regulation if held at a place of public religious worship.

"We'd like to be clear that the council has, in any case, no interest in banning films because of political content. Our function is purely administering the rules.

"When someone points out the law could be broken, we're obliged to act. All we did was suggest the Duke of York's looked at the conditions of the licence and sought legal advice.

"We're anxious not to be drawn into any publicity based on the false notion the authorities are seeking to ban this film.

It is not seen as a threat."

"Likewise we can't see how film festivals are under threat from existing laws."

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