Coroners and police forces must be more open and cooperative with the regional press, the Society of Editors has urged.
The SoE has made the call in a letter to both chief coroner Peter Thornton QC and Gareth Morgan, deputy chief constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
The Society said the reluctance of officers and coroners to provide information to the media is damaging police and media relations and causing declining standards of information being released to the public.
The letter comes amid concerns by members of the Society that certain forces that central advice not to release the identity of “non-suspicious deaths” to the media is having a detrimental effect on the public’s right to know.
Writing to Det Chief Con Morgan, Bob Satchwell, executive director of the SoE cited a case in Cumbria in which the identity of a four-year-old boy who drowned in a caravan park swimming pool was withheld from the media.
While the local police insisted on not releasing the child’s identity, in respect of the parents’ wishes, they still continued to do so despite the child’s father posting details on social media including photographs of himself and his deceased son.
Bob added: “This general policy and approach represents a major obstacle to the media performing its role of communicating accurate information to the public. The idea that non suspicious deaths are somehow ‘private’ is clearly flawed. It is inconsistent with the need for openness and transparency that the police service generally says it wishes to promote.
“Huge amounts of the emergency services time and money is expended on such incidents. The public have a right to know how the police and emergency services use their money. The services deserve the credit for the efficient and caring way in which they deal with such incidents day-in, day-out.
“As we have discussed so many times previously the human details of such tragedies focus public attention which highlights the burden on emergency services and awareness can help prevent deaths.”
The topic of police and media relations will form a session at the Society of Editors annual conference in Carlisle on Monday 17 October.