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Police and editors to meet

The Society of Editors will meet the Association of Chief Police Officers next month to discuss controversial new guidelines on the release of information about victims of crimes and accidents.

Also at the meeting – on July 19 – will be Data Protection Commissioner Elizabeth France, who offered to “broker an agreement” after hearing problems raised by editors at a seminar held by the Society in May.

ACPO has carried out a survey which, it says, shows no lasting damage to relations between the media and the majority of police forces.

Under the guidelines, police now give victims the choice of whether their details should be released to the media.

ACPO’s survey said that 31 police forces (70.5%) are implementing the guidelines or have similar policies. Of those, 17 claim it has made little or no difference to their relations with local media.

A total of 13 forces (29.5%) report that the guidelines have had an adverse effect on relations with the media. ACPO says that five of these report that initial problems are settling down; two say objections come from one editor or newspaper group and three had only recently implemented the guidelines.

The Association concludes that there is no “nationwide crisis” in relations between police and the media.

But Bob Satchwell, Director of the Society of Editors, said: “The conclusions do not square with the reports we are getting from members. We also feel that the results of the survey do not necessarily support the conclusions. Editors are increasingly concerned that information is drying up.

“While they are trying to maintain cordial relations with local police forces we get the impression that they are holding back while we try to resolve the problems by meeting ACPO.

“The real issue is not police-media relations. Although they are important, we are talking about the public’s right to know about incidents that happen in public and involve the spending of taxpayers’ money.”

To read more about the Society of Editors campaign click here

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