Journalist told by police force to make official complaint if he wants a comment - Press Gazette

Journalist told by police force to make official complaint if he wants a comment

Exaro News investigator Tim Wood has reported back on an exchange with the City of London Police press office which would be hilarious if it were not so serious.

Then investigative journalism website has revealed that a police investigation into a London businessman was prompted by “corporate spook” Kroll and alleged that it was part of a reputation protection operation for a Kroll client.

The implications of all this are clearly serious for the reputation of the City of London force so Wood did the decent thing and went to the press office for a comment.

The response, he says, is one that he has never before experienced in 20 years as a journalist.

A spokeswoman for the City of London Police emailed me to say: “Complaints about the conduct of an individual police officer or member of police staff should be referred to the force’s ‘professional standards’ directorate, it is not for corporate communications to respond.”

I was somewhat bemused. I called the press office to point out that I was seeking a comment, not making a complaint.

The spokeswoman said: “Well, the word, ‘allegation’, suggests that you are, Tim. It suggests that this needs to go to ‘professional standards’ before it will come to corporate communications.”

She went on: “You are suggesting that something untoward has occurred, in which case you need to speak to professional standards with that suggestion.”


"You are saying that, in order for me to get a comment from the City of London Police, I have to make a formal complaint about the allegations that we are putting forward in our article? That is ridiculous.” 


“That is our decision, Tim.”

Wood duly made a complaint but said he was then referred back to the press office by detective superintend Philip Carson who said:

“I think that there has been some confusion here. You do not need to make a complaint to get a press comment. I shall refer you back to our media department.”

The police spokeswoman then, reportedly, had a new line of defence.

“The matter you referred to has been recorded as a complaint, and is subject to on-going legal proceedings, and, therefore, the force is unable to comment.”

UPDATE: The City of London police force disputes Exaro's version of events.

Information that Exaro provided initially suggested an allegation had been made by a third party. On this basis the force’s Corporate Communication department contacted the force’s Professional Standards department to make them aware. The decision not to provide a comment at that stage was perhaps not articulated clearly to the journalist.

The reasoning was that the individual involved might wish to make a complaint had they not done so already and Corporate Communication did not intend to suggest the journalist should make a complaint. However, once it was confirmed that the matter was already the subject of a civil legal action a response was given to the journalist concerned. 



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette