Hogan-Howe signals thaw in relations with journalists as senior officers attend Crime Reporters Association party - Press Gazette

Hogan-Howe signals thaw in relations with journalists as senior officers attend Crime Reporters Association party

Met police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe signalled a thaw in recently frosty relations between journalists and the police as he spoke at a party to mark the 70th anniversary of the Crime Reporters Association (CRA).

Relations between reporters and the Met Police have been tense since the publication of the Leveson report in 2011 and in 2012 officers boycotted the annual Christmas drinks with members of the CRA.

Tuesday night’s event marks the first time that senior officers have joined crime reporters for a festive gathering since then.

Matters have not been helped by the fact that the Met Police has arrested and/or charged at least 67 journalists over the last five years, with at least another 33 questioned under caution, of whom ten were convicted.

The outgoing Scotland Yard commissioner called for a more “mature” relationship between journalists and the police and said there were “strong similarities” between the two including their desire to “see justice done”.

He urged his successor to continue work to rebuild trust between the two camps and to value the contribution a tough and questioning fourth estate brings to society.

Hogan-Howe spoke at a celebration to mark seventy years since the CRA was founded by senior Fleet Street correspondents shortly after the Second World War.

His decision to attend was seen by some crime reporters as signalling a thaw in police-media relations.

CRA members were joined by officers and staff from several forces, as well as the Home Office and other agencies, at the Westminster event.

Among them were three potential candidates for the top job: Met terror boss Mark Rowley, National Police Chiefs Council chair Sara Thornton and Essex chief constable Stephen Kavanagh.

Hogan-Howe, who has repeatedly said he wants his officers to “talk to journalists more”, joked that he once considered becoming a reporter.

He has previously said that journalists “talk about being nosy, I prefer to talk about being curious – but I’m sure they amount to pretty much the same thing”.

He also challenged members to arrange a football match with himself and senior officers before his retirement, another regular event which fell away post-Leveson.

CRA chairman Chris Greenwood, of the Daily Mail, said: “There was a great turnout and I really hope the celebration is a sign of getting the relationship back on track.

“There is real hunger and determination for change, of course among crime journalists, but also among senior police communicators as well.

“They know that a relationship characterised by secrecy and mistrust is not serving the public or doing justice to the often extraordinary work of front-line officers.”

Since electing a new committee in June, with representatives from across the national media, the CRA has held a series of successful events.
These included a bacon butty and coffee morning with murder squad detectives at the Old Bailey and a reception with officers specialising in tackling sexual offences.

There have also been several private meetings with senior officers and directors of communication to discuss rebuilding bridges.

The College of Policing is currently finalising new guidelines on dealing with the media. They will be published in the New Year.

The draft guidelines prompted an outcry from journalists when they were published in May and recommended new wide-ranging controls on police contact with journalists.

Some journalists are concerned by recommendations from Sir Richard Henriques in his report on Operation Midland. He called for new legal curbs to stop journalists speaking to witnesses and providing anonymity for those under investigation by police before the point of arrest.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette