Chief constables are to be reminded that Association of Chief Police Officers’ guidelines encourage them to be open with the press.
With some editors now so frustr-ated with the lack of crime details coming from the police that they are threatening to withdraw all co-operation, ACPO media advisory committee chairman Elizabeth Neville has agreed to write to all chief constables.
Neville met Society of Editors’ executive director Bob Satchwell and lawyers from the Newspaper Society and the BBC on Tuesday to hear editors’ concerns and examples of the close-down on information they claim they are experiencing from forces around the country.
Key worries include their belief that police officers are not asking crime victims in a positive way whether they want their names used in stories – Satchwell told Neville that in 98 per cent of cases incidents were being reported to the media without names. "That beggars belief," he said, giving her examples where police officers had said to the public: "You don’t want this in the paper, do you?"
Satchwell said: "It was a useful meeting and an intelligent exchange of views. We agreed that she and we would encourage meetings between chief constables and our editors at local level to address these issues. She and her colleagues did seem to accept that some of the instances where details were withheld were just plain silly."
In turn, he promised to urge restraint on those editors close to breaking off relations with local forces.
ACPO spokesman Peter Shipley said: "While amending the guidelines is not an issue, clearly there are some concerns. We feel it would be helpful for Elizabeth Neville to remind her colleagues the basis of our approach is to encourage openness and the guidelines are not intended to be used to restrict or limit information."
By Jean Morgan