MP's concern over police crime silence - Press Gazette

MP's concern over police crime silence

Allegations that police chiefs are failing to tell journalists about a huge number of crimes have been raised in Parliament.

Ronnie Campbell MP has stepped in after The Sunday Post reporteed that Northumbria Police releases less than one per cent of crimes to the media.

He has tabled an early day motion stating: “This House is concerned about Northumbria Police’s massive spending on corporate communications and its failure to release serious crimes to the media.”

The force, which is facing cuts of £34 million and the loss of 500 jobs, will this year spend more than £1.7 million a year on corporate communications.

But an investigation by The Sunday Post has revealed it releases details of less than one in 100 crimes.

The Sunday Post monitored press releases between 9am on Friday, 11 March and 9am, on Monday, 14 March.

During those three days, the media services’ department released: a minor road accident; a robbery at a shop; a stolen car; a stolen dog and an appeal regarding an assault from a week earlier.

However, a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed there were 4,665 incidents, including 674 crimes.

These included 55 cases of grievous bodily harm, 20 other assaults, one armed robbery and three other robberies, 5 rapes, 12 other sexual assaults and 69 burglaries.

Spending on Northumbria’s corporate communications has risen from £1.5 million last year to £1,776,000 this year, although the force says the rise is partly due to restructuring of the department.

Northumbria was recently reported to have the highest public confidence figures in the country, with 66 per cent of people claiming police were tackling their concerns.

Campbell, the Labour MP for Blyth, wrote to the Chief Constable Sue Sim to voice concern that the force appeared to be releasing positive stories, while 99 per cent of crimes were being held back.

Sim replied saying: ‘We release information to the media if there is a policing purpose or a clear public interest for doing so.

‘This can include warning and informing the public, appeals for assistance in detecting a crime or promoting crime prevention information to the public.”

Sim claimed the force issued 362 ‘pieces of proactive information’to the media in March but declined to comment on the figure of one per cent of crimes being released.

Sim added: ‘I am confident that our level of service is the best in the country and the amount of information released by Northumbria Police is consistent with other forces in the country.”

Campbell said: ‘This response isn’t a response. It’s waffle and it doesn’t answer the questions I asked.

‘I’m not sure if they are trying to hide something here but, if they are, we will find out.

‘More than £1.7 million is a lot of money to spend on PR at a time when they are facing cuts to frontline officers. If this money is simply being spent on spin, rather than what the public needs to know, then it isn’t well-spent.”