The College of Policing, which sets professional standards for police officers, is consulting on new Media Relations Guidance designed to provide “a framework to assist those in the police service who engage with the media to do so in an open, accessible and professional way” .
The guidelines include the following:
- That a communications officer should be present at a media interview if it addresses national issues, could have an impact on community tensions, is high profile, could damage force reputation or is likely to generate other media interest.
- A record should be made of the interactions between chief officers and the media where policing matters are discussed. Where contact is with other officers or members of staff, a note should be made of the time, date and subjects covered.
- In accordance with recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry, the Information Commissioner and others, police will not name those arrested, or suspected of a crime, save in exceptional circumstances where there is a legitimate policing purpose to do so – this would include a threat to life, the prevention or detection of crime or where the police have made a public warning about a wanted person. If names are put to the police for confirmation of an arrest the response should be “neither confirm nor deny”.
- Those charged with an offence should be named unless there is an exceptional and legitimate policing purpose for not doing so or reporting restrictions apply. A decision not to name an individual who has been charged should be taken in consultation with the CPS.
- The names of victims should not normally be released without their consent.
The College of Policing have asked a number of consultation questions including:
- Does the proposed guidance strike the correct balance between openness and the need to safeguard confidentiality of information?
- Do you agree with the approach to the naming of suspects?
The proposed guidance has attracted criticism from the press, with a Roy Greenslade piece entitled “New police guidelines reinforce controls on journalistic contacts” and The News Media Association saying that the guidance must not create “new barriers that entrench police secrecy.”
The consultation period closes on 8 July 2016.