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Local media ‘more balanced’ on Suffolk strangler case, Leveson told

A senior regional editor has told the Leveson Inquiry that the local media were more balanced than national newspapers in reporting the “Suffolk Strangler” murders.

Terry Hunt, editor of the East Anglian Daily Times, was giving evidence at the continuing inquiry into press standards yesterday.

He said the 2006 killings of five women working as prostitutes in Ipswich was a “very fast-moving and frankly horrifying” story but had to be treated carefully.

Terry suggested that some of the national media gave a misleading impression about the impact of the murders.

“Obviously it was a very significant, unprecedented story for Suffolk, but it was part of our responsibility to put this into some kind of context,” he said.

“We had to keep very balanced and very contextual in terms of our reporting. I was aware of how the nationals were reporting it.”

“One or possibly more of the nationals would take a picture of the centre of Ipswich on a Monday night and suggest it was quiet because everyone was frightened, which wasn’t the case.

“Obviously people were taking additional precautions, but my perception at the time was not that everyone was going home and locking the doors. It probably would have been quiet under normal circumstances, so it wasn’t anything exceptional.”

The inquiry heard that Suffolk Police’s then-chief constable Alistair McWhirter wrote to all newspaper editors after the arrest of suspect Steve Wright amid concerns that the way the case was being reported in national tabloid papers could prejudice his trial.

Wright was handed a whole-life sentence in February 2008 after being convicted of murdering all five women.

Anne Campbell, head of corporate communications for Norfolk and Suffolk Police, said police built up a “positive relationship based on trust” with journalists during the Suffolk Strangler investigation.

“My understanding is that there was no off-the-record guidance. It was all on the record, and lots of it,” she told the inquiry.

Colin Adwent, crime reporter for the EADT and the Ipswich Star, told the inquiry that a new requirement for Suffolk Police officers to record all contacts with journalists was “not overly helpful”.

He said some officers were more nervous about speaking to him since the force introduced the system at the end of last year.

“I just feel – and this is a personal view – that it may well inhibit officers from talking to the press in certain cases,” he said.


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  • March 27, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Twas ever thus, yet the regionals are consistently dismissed as the poor relations of the media world.

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  • March 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

    On the nationals getting the story that newsdesks want is everything.
    That’s why so many fail to bother with basics like right of reply or mitigation in court cases.
    Competition can often be a bad thing.

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  • March 27, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Colin Adwent gives a masterclass in stating the bleedin’ obvious. Of course having to record encounters with journalists will inhibit police. If I had to officially record every time I talked to a contact then I’d cross the street too.
    Any sensible police officer will just avoid any contact – that way, you can’t be blamed for anything.
    Amazing that Anne Campbell should say that her “understanding” was there was no off-the-record briefing. That suggests she had to ask someone…should she not know? “Corporate communictions heads” these days are so removed from real life…

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  • March 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Just one thing worth remembering amid all the back-slapping about the wonderful local newspaper reporting of the Suffolk Strangler case. The fact is that only one publication was criticised by a High Court judge for its coverage – and that was the freesheet sister paper of the EADT. It printed a story just a few weeks before the trial, stating how great it was that Ipswich folk could sleep easy in their beds now that the ‘killer’ was behind bars. Why hasn’t Leveson asked about this instead of framing questions to Terry Hunt along the lines of, ‘How did your balanced and reasonable coverage compare to the frenzied reporting of the tabloids?’

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