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Rogues' gallery: keep up the pressure

Editors have been urged to continue their fight against the police’s refusal to release pictures of convicted criminals.

The call came from Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, after Hartlepool Mail editor Harry Blackwell went into print to explain the problem his paper faced.

Mr Blackwelll used his weekly Editor Writes column to answer a reader who had complained that criminals’ pictures did not appear in the paper.

Mr Blackwell explained that the reason his paper did not use pictures was because the police refused to supply them. He said Cleveland Police had told him their policy was not to release photos unless a sentence of 10 years or more had been imposed, while Northumbria worked on eight years or more.

Cleveland said pictures of lesser offenders could be released at the discretion of the senior investigating officer, though Mr Blackwood said that,in his long experience, this rarely happened.

The hit-and-approach to open justiuce was underlined last month, when HoldTheFrontPage reported that the Oldham Chronicle was publishing pictures of car crime ofenders who had been jailed for THREE MONTHS. Police had agreed to make pictures available in an effort to reverse a sharp rise in car crime in the town.

Mr Satchwell said the issue was one of many being discussed by the Society of Editors with the Association of Chief Police Officers.

“We urge all editors to discuss this with their chief constables,” he said.

“The issue in the past was usually one of cost. With electronic publishing, that no longer applies.

“Our basic argument is that if people have time to sit in a court, they see criminals who are convicted, so why shouldn’t they see photographs of those criminals in their local paper or on local TV? That would seem to be a senislbe and valuable extension of the principles of open justice.”

How do the police on your patch respond to picture requests? Ring the HoldTheFrontPage newsdesk on 01332 595597 or click here to e-mail us.

To read Harry Blackwood’s latest column, click here