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Two sides to the story

Chief constables around the country are to be reminded about applying police/media guidelines thanks to a key meeting between police and the Society of Editors.

The guidelines, which – among other issues – give advice on when details surrounding crimes should be given to the media, are being applied differently in different parts of the country.

In some instances they are being used to reduce the flow of information between police and the media rather than the other way around.

Following a meeting with the Society, Association of Chief Police Officers media advisory group chairman Elizabeth Neville has promised to write to all chief constables about the implementation of police/media guidelines.

The society was represented by executive director Bob Satchwell and Simon Bradshaw, editor of The Argus at Brighton, accompanied by Society of Editors legal adviser Catherine Courtney, and BBC lawyer Rosemary Cairns.

One problem area was where officers were not asking positive questions when seeking permission for the release of personal details.

Bob Satchwell said the meeting was a helpful exchange of views.

He said: “We hope the letter will help and we would be grateful for continued feedback from editors.”

It was emphasised at the meeting that there needed to be two-way relationships between the media and the police and some editors, who were becoming increasingly frustrated by police policy changes, might be forced to consider withdrawing co-operation.

The society told Ms Neville that editors would be encouraged to keep talking to local police chiefs to try to iron out problems at that level.

While it was appreciated that she could not instruct chief constables it was felt that her letter could help to reduce tensions.

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