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November 11, 2013

Britain’s FBI will talk to the media ‘not as mates but fellow professionals’

By Darren Boyle

Britain’s new 'FBI' will allow its officers to talk openly to the media unless operational concerns about jeopardising ongoing investigations over rule it, the Society of Editors heard.

Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said he wants the new organisation to be open and transparent.

The force replaced the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Addressing the Society of Editors annual conference at the Tower Hotel in London he said: “We want people to be able to talk about operations they are involved with not a senior officer who is trying to remember his lines.

“NCA officers are empowered to talk to the media.”

Bristow said his officers will give pre-verdict briefings and background information to journalists to assist them in reporting on trials.

He said he will always make a record of any contact with the media. He said such contacts should be for a professional reason and the release of information should be in the public interest.

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He said: “We won’t leak. It’s not in the interest of the public and we take a zero tolerance view of this. I view leaking information as corruption.”

Bristow said the NCA need the media to promote its work and communicate with the general public as well as the criminal fraternity.

He said: “Serious and organised crime doesn’t happen to someone else or somewhere else. Ninety five  percent of heroin comes from Afghanistan but is sold locally outside people’s front doors. This leads to crime in local areas and people die as a result of taking heroin.

“Much of what people see outside their front doors is directed by people from many thousands of miles away making money from their pain and suffering.”

Bristow said serious and organised crime is a national security threat ranking alongside terrorism.

He said: “We have intrusive powers and we spend people’s money. Therefore the media need to be able to shine a light on what we do. We also want to talk to criminals and get the message out there.

“You the media have a responsibility to protect the public interest. I will give you a commitment that the NCA will work with the media. It is an absolute commitment. We can’t share everything with you all the time. But you do have a commitment that if there is not a good operational or reason we will share information with you. That is a default position.

“We want to engage with you not as mates but as fellow professionals.”

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