AddThis SmartLayers

Regional daily’s reporters barred from police misconduct hearing

Neil White

A regional daily editor has hit out after reporters from the title were prevented from attending a police misconduct hearing involving a senior police officer.

The Derby Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Detective Inspector Tony Brittan had been dismissed from Derbyshire Police for gross misconduct.

But the paper could not tell readers any details of the allegations because the hearing was held in private – despite new rules which mean such cases should be held in public.

New Home Office rules, which came into force on 1 May, said that police disciplinary hearing must be held in public in a move which was backed by trade body the News Media Association.

Derby Tel

However, the legislation also allows the chair of a disciplinary panel to exclude people from such hearings and also to not advertise when and where they will take place.

Telegraph editor Neil White, pictured above, said the paper’s reporters regularly asked for details of when the hearing would take place but were eventually told it had already been held in private.

He wrote in an editorial: “This newspaper’s expectation was that we would be able to report Mr Brittan’s case in full. We had heard about his impropriety six weeks ago and were, therefore, aware that a hearing was due to take place.

“Our reporters regularly asked of its date and venue but were finally told that it had already been held in private at the instruction of the hearing’s chairman, Avon & Somerset deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe.

“Her decision was made without the opportunity for us to appeal.

“In our view, it defeats the spirit of the Home Office drive for transparency if a senior police office has the power to decide that the public can be barred from such hearings without giving reasons in advance.”

The paper was told by Derbyshire Police that a detective inspector admitted gross misconduct and was dismissed, while a detective constable was found guilty of gross misconduct and given a final warning.

Neil told HTFP: “We are aware of the nature of the case thanks to an anonymous call we received weeks ago.

“This meant we understood certain sensitivities and would have accepted orders surrounding them. But we still believe the hearing should have been heard in public.

“We would now hope the system should be changed so we are warned in advance of a proposed media ban and can attempt to influence such a decision.”

A spokeswoman for Derbyshire Police told the Telegraph: “Under new legislation, the chair of any misconduct panel has the authority to conduct a hearing in private if he or she feels that there is a compelling reason to do so.

“The chair of this panel, who is from another force, made the decision that this hearing should not be advertised and should be held in private. Derbyshire Constabulary is not able to question or challenge that independent decision.”

11 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • October 9, 2015 at 10:30 am
    Permalink

    The Derbyshire Police response is clearly a cop-out! Organisations such as the Society of Editors need to pile on the pressure to ensure that police disciplinary hearings are conducted in the way as those for teachers.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • October 9, 2015 at 10:35 am
    Permalink

    Classic sweep it under the carpet tactics. When openness is merely advised or encouraged it will never happen if it’s likely to embarrass the police.
    That’s a given. But – er – what about that God-awful front page? It is a horror. A rather important story squashed to the level of sandwich filling by that over-sized plug, compounded by the need to strangle the report into a teaser by that idiotic typeface. Heaven help the poor sub who has to write a heading with that character count on an ordinary day!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(6)
  • October 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm
    Permalink

    The chairman’s from Avon and Somerset? That’s funny. Their chief has been found guilty of misconduct and is under pressure to resign.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • October 9, 2015 at 2:01 pm
    Permalink

    GladImOutOfIt, Perhaps you are not aware of the importance of Derby County in these parts but I can assure you that their squad photo is probably more important to our readers than a police sacking of which we could only report scant detail. I’ll leave others to decide on the use of the word idiotic to describe a typeface.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(3)
  • October 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm
    Permalink

    Dear PC Plod, an independent decision? Then open the hearing to the public and prove it. Otherwise don’t blame Mr Average Man in the Street if it sounds like another one of your recent all-too-frequent abuses of power.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • October 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm
    Permalink

    Take your point on the Rams, Neil, although it wouldn’t have lost anything by being a couple of cms shallower. Where’s the impact in the player’s shorts? As to the typeface…perhaps it should be “hideous” rather than “idiotic”. A more condensed typeface would be easier to manage and give more scope on the page, surely?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)
  • October 9, 2015 at 3:38 pm
    Permalink

    I trust the Telegraph will remember this grubby little episode the next time the police ask for their help in publicising an appeal…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • October 10, 2015 at 12:53 pm
    Permalink

    Perhaps the DT editor should aak his Facebook audience whether the cops were right or wrong?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(3)
  • October 11, 2015 at 11:36 am
    Permalink

    When the Derby Telegraph starts to open up its own disciplinary hearings to the public then maybe I would have some sympathy with the paper’s point of view. Over the years lots of staff have come and gone at the paper – most without explanation!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • October 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm
    Permalink

    When the wages of the Telegraph’s staff are paid for by the public purse, then yes, make their disciplinaries public.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • October 13, 2015 at 8:12 am
    Permalink

    To be fair, if my local paper’s front page looked like that I’d ban it from my house.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)