Police refusing suspect rule change is a “major victory” for press freedom

Police’s statement that people should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when charged with a crime is a “huge victory” for journalists’ freedom, a UK press agency has said.

Media bosses had raised concerns after proposed changes were made to the College of Policing guidance, according to which armed forces across England and Wales “should no longer” those charged with crimes such as indecent exposure, domestic violence or child sexual abuse, but advised that individuals “can be”. called”.

The Society of Editors has welcomed the police department’s move to reject the rule change that would have kept the suspects’ names secret.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, CEO of the College of Policing, said on Friday: “An open, transparent and professional working relationship between the police service and the media is essential to building public trust.

“Our guidance to police forces is clear that at the time a person is charged with a crime there should not be a reasonable expectation of privacy. We believe this is in the high public interest and compatible with data protection law.”

To which Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors, responded: “The College of Policing’s decision to reject a proposal to give the armed forces the power to choose or not to name an individual against charge is a major victory for freedom of the press.

“Open justice remains one of the fundamental cornerstones of our democracy and media coverage not only protects communities but also helps bring criminals to justice.

“We’re glad common sense prevailed and we look forward to continuing to work with the college to ensure that any changes to the guidance strengthen, rather than hinder, the public’s right to know.”

The college said on Thursday that changes to the guidance had been proposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to reflect evolving privacy laws.

Andy Marsh comments

Andy Marsh (College of Policing/PA)

On Friday, the college held a meeting with the ICO to understand its position and outline the importance of transparency, open justice and the media’s ability to get the information they need to do their jobs.

It maintains the current position that “unless there is an exceptional and legitimate police purpose not to do so, persons charged with a criminal offense – including those who receive a court summons – should be identified by name.” or reporting restrictions apply”.

The new guidance had suggested suspects would only be named “if the crime is of a serious nature, such as rape or murder” or if the incident has already been reported in the media or on social media sites.

There were concerns over the decision by individual police forces to name or not suspects for a variety of crimes, including arson, aggravated assault and robbery.

Crime reporters also raised concerns that new guidelines could make it significantly more difficult for journalists to cover crime cases, since reporters need an accused’s name to find details of his or her first court appearance.

The society earlier this week branded proposals to revise the college’s current media relations policies as “deeply concerning”.


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