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June 8, 2007

Freelance banned from press conference

By Press Gazette

Police holding a press conference about the mysterious deaths of pensioners at a care home have excluded journalists that they don’t have a ‘relationship’with.

Avon and Somerset Police did not invite freelance journalist Simon Trump to the briefing last Thursday at the police head quarters, which revealed police would be exhuming the bodies of former residents of Parkfields residential home who are suspected of having been poisoned by the home’s owners.

When Trump, a former national newspaper journalist of 12 years who worked for the Sunday Times and Today, contacted them he was told he was not invited.

A press officer told him that only journalists who the police have a special working relationship with and could trust were invited.

Local newspapers, TV and radio journalists as well as the Press Association and independent news agency South West News were all invited to the briefing.

Trump said: ‘Avon and Somerset Police knew I was working with the Mail on Sunday. I think where the bugbear comes is that I have very good police contacts independently of the press office. It means that they don’t always control the message with me.

‘Incidentally, I had all the information that was going to come out in the briefing; I had the names of the people being exhumed and I knew that all the families had already been informed. The information I got was independent of the press office and was therefore as valid as any other story where you get that sort of information.

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‘It is an important story and why some journalists can work with them and some can’t I don’t know. I think their attitude sets a dangerous precedent.

‘In briefings like this, with a story so strongly in the public interest, it should be one in, all in.”

Trump said that other freelance journalists working for the nationals were also excluded from the briefing.

Avon and Somerset Police media relations manager Darren Bane said: ‘Given the extreme sensitivity of this particular issue we had to share the information with journalists with whom we do have a relationship and also those journalists who we knew were involved in this story.

‘With any pre-briefing event we are not duty bound to invite anybody because it very much is an issue of trust – if embargos are breached it can be a very serious matter.

‘If there was a journalist or news organisation we did not know we could trust then potentially we could have excluded them.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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