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October 20, 2017

London local newspaper editor claims Met tried to dissuade victim’s family from speaking to press

By Dominic Ponsford

The editor of the Hackney and Islington Gazette newspapers has criticised police over their handling of press for two reported crimes in the east London boroughs.

Ramzy Alwakeel said in a column for the Islington paper that the “battle” his team had faced in acquiring the mugshot of a convicted paedophile had been “outrageous”.

He also claimed that an officer had “tried to convince” the victim’s family that they should not speak to the press – despite them first getting in touch with the newspaper.

Said Alwakeel: “When Scotland Yard is happy to release mugshots of shoplifters who realistically pose no risk to anyone, for it to withhold a photo of a sex offender – who may well have other victims who could end up coming forward after seeing him in the paper – is totally inappropriate.

“The police should be working with the press, not against us, in upholding the principle of open justice, and in – surely – respecting the wishes of victims and their families, not to mention trying to track down anyone else this man preyed on.”

In a separate editorial piece for Hackney, Alwakeel raised concerns over the Met’s decision not to release higher quality pictures to the media of a man they were trying to track down.

The police appeal had included a “grainy, blurred photo” of an alleged attacker taken from CCTV, said Alwakeel, despite a friend of the victim having taken clearer pictures from her phone.

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The victim contacted the Gazette to issue the clearer images herself.

Said Alwakeel: “Emails seen by the [Hackney] Gazette prove the police were, in fact, aware of much better footage that clearly showed the man’s face and was shot by the victims themselves during the attack.

“And while it’s great that those victims felt able to come to us directly with the footage, they shouldn’t have had to.

“Issuing timely appeals through local media is such an effective way of tracking down both suspects and witnesses. I can’t count the number of times police have said appeals in local or national papers have proved vital in securing eventual convictions.

“And yet pictures, video and even basic details often don’t get issued months after a crime has been committed.”

The Met told Press Gazette: “We will always use the best images we have to appeal for those wanted for questioning by police. In our initial appeal on this case, we used the only image we had available.

“On Wednesday, 18 October we were made aware of better and clearer images which we released to media once we spoke again with the victims in this case.”

The Met has yet to comment on claims an officer had tried to dissuade a victim’s family from speaking with the press.

The Islington and Hackney Gazette newspapers are both owned by regional publisher Archant.

Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall

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