Journalists have been told that an emergency summit with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on the capital’s violent crime epidemic, from which they were barred, was not recorded.
As a result, the meeting on April 10, which was due to be attended by Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and then Home Secretary Amber Rudd, has effectively been held in secret.
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Press were told they could not attend the meeting because of strict rules governing publicity in the run up to an election that enforces political neutrality – the period known as “purdah”.
A number of London Assembly Members are understood to have been standing in local council elections held on 3 May, although the assembly and mayor were not up for election.
Tim Crook, vice president of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, said: “Something so vital and important to Londoners, to all the victims of knife crime and the families of murder victims was not attended because of this wrong election purdah decision.
“And there is no electronic record available. It is impossible to now properly report it after the election restriction is over. It’s lost to history. This will always be the price of secret government and secret justice.”
A spokesperson for the mayor, who hosted the summit, said: “There was no agreement to record the summit as it was not a public meeting.”
Press were also turned away from a meeting the following day, called by the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee to discuss the rise in knife crime and other serious violence in London.
The decision by the Greater London Authority to ban press was challenged by a number of media outlets.
A letter from Michael MacFarlance of the BBC, Hannah Emerson‐Thomas from ITN and Peter Lowe of Sky News, said: “We can think of no precedent whereby access is denied in this manner.
“Public access to a meeting of the PCC where the mayor is being held to account on an important issue, is not ‘publicity’ but proper scrutiny.
“It is quite astonishing that you should come to the conclusion that such a meeting should be kept out of the public domain for more than three weeks.”
However, a GLA official said its resources “must not be used for political purposes” during the pre-election period.
“This is to ensure that the GLA maintains, and is seen to maintain, political neutrality at all times and in particular during the period of heightened sensitivity in the lead up to an election,” he said.
The GLA released a recording of the meeting after polling day.
Khan also gave interviews to LBC, the BBC, Sky, and the Evening Standard after the PCC meeting.