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Guidance on role of police press offices ‘to be scrapped’

Guidance directing police officers to seek the help of press officers before speaking to the media is set to be scrapped amid protests from editors.

As reported on HTFP in May, the College of Policing has issued new draft guidance on police-media relations, including a long list of scenarios in which officers should refer issues to press offices before speaking directly to the media.

The Society of Editors has previously said the proposed guidelines would not help relations and could not be endorsed by media organisations “in their current form”.

Now the college’s chief executive Alex Marshall has told the SoE conference in Carlisle that the list was likely to be scrapped.

College of Policing
“We will probably take the list out.  We thought it was being helpful and positive, but it’s had a negative response,” said Mr Marshall, a former chief constable of Hampshire.

The list was said to be non-exhaustive but appeared to cover most everyday policing scenarios including:

  • All incidents involving a fatality
  • All serious crime appeals
  • Media appeals for missing, wanted or dangerous persons
  • Hate crimes or hate incidents
  • Incidents involving high-profile figures such as celebrities or VIPs
  • Any enquiry about sex offenders
  • Appeals following arrest or charge

The Society of Editors has been working with the National Police Chiefs Council to suggest amendments to the draft guidelines alongside the News Media Association, the Media Lawyers’ Association and other organisations.

Mr Marshall said the new revised guidance would probably be published early in 2017.

The College of Policing boss revealed it will also be publishing revised guidance by the end of this year on the use of police information notices or harassment orders against journalists.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission agreed to request the guidance as part of a settlement with former Croydon Advertiser chief reporter Gareth Davies after a harassment order issued against him was revoked.

Media lawyer Tony Jaffa asked Mr Marshall whether the IPCC had submitted the request and whether the review had taken place.

Mr Marshall responded that the guidance had been reviewed and would be published “by the end of the year.”

During the session, former Westmorland Gazette editor Mike Glover alleged that people were “dying in secret” as a result of police guidance on naming victims of accidents.

Said Mike: “Our local police force says it is following national guidelines not to name people and transfer us to the coroner. The coroner doesn’t allow himself or his officers to talk to the media.

“Somebody can fall off a mountain and be helicoptered to Preston and there is no way to relate the person who has died to the person who has fallen off the mountain.”

Mr Marshall said that in his experience, police would name people once family and friends have been informed, but stressed that the coroner “owned the legal responsibility” for the identification of people who have lost their lives.


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