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Police chief kept crime figures secret after being warned reporter was present

Eddie HarbinsonA police chief declined to reveal crime statistics to councillors at a meeting after being warned a daily newspaper reporter was present.

Inspector Craig Walker, of Police Scotland, had been about the present crime statistics at a meeting of Glasgow City Council when the clerk made him aware that Glasgow Evening Times local democracy reporter Eddie Harbinson, left, was covering proceedings.

The meeting was temporarily halted and councillors were then told they would only be given the full breakdown of statistics for the north Glasgow areas in private.

The council has defended the decision on the grounds that it is “extremely rare” for press or other members of the public to attend certain meetings.

A spokeswoman for the council told the Evening Times: “It is clearly beneficial to communities when the media takes an interest in local decision making.

“However, until very recently, it was extremely rare that press or other members of the public would attend certain meetings – and has become apparent that, in some cases, people taking part have not been aware that they were speaking publicly.

“We have a responsibility to make sure participants understand that they are addressing an open meeting.

“While it may have been preferable for this to have been done prior to the meeting, there was no intention to stop anyone from speaking or to alter the nature of their contribution.”

The decision has been criticised by MSP Annie Wells, who represents the Conservatives in Glasgow.

She told the Evening Times after last month’s meeting: “It’s commonplace for journalists to attend such public meetings, and that is a key make-up of local democracy in action. If anything, the police should be embracing this interest, not stifling it.”

HTFP has approached the Evening Times for a comment.


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  • December 13, 2018 at 9:41 am

    This is totally indefensible. A council meeting is nearly always held in public, except when matters of a sensitive personal nature are being discussed. There is no way that crime statistics fall into that category and the apparent willingness of the police to remove them from the public gaze indicates they did not make good reading.
    I wonder, how many members of the public were also present? Was any motion put forward to exclude the press and the public? I can’t remember who would censure councils, but this lot need censuring and a swift crash course on local government law.

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  • December 13, 2018 at 9:58 am

    never heard such tosh from officials. The problem is the police get too involved in politics, “fear of crime” and all that.
    Councillors often have no idea about the media. I once heard a council chairman tell councillors as I waited outside: ” Well I suppose we can’t stop them coming.”
    Having said that I don’t see much improved coverage of councils in my local despite the so-called “democracy reporters”. I suspect many meetings are still not covered.

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  • December 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I used to be asked at our local council meeting in Scotland to “put your pencil doon for this bit”. It was all quite acceptable. I was able to listen to the discussion and report on the outcome. If push came to shove the councillors and officers would generally concede to the comments being reported. It was an arrangement based on familiarity and trust. And it worked.

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  • December 13, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Eyebrox. sounds a wee bit too cosy for me but if it worked for your editor, fine. A councillor once blamed me for losing an election after I quoted some unfounded accusations he made in a meeting about young women. That was a bit rich.

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  • December 13, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Appalling. These people forget they are paid from the public purse. If the crime stats were not good then the councillors shld have questioned, in public, the inspector as to why. The problem can only get worse with newspapers etc having too few reporters to send. The police and other authorities have only themselves to blame if rumours are whipped up and reported by papers from other sources.;

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  • December 14, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Dreadful. If ever we needed an example of how newspapers have let close ties with police and councils go with cutback after cutback.
    The world of the press officer has flooded into the gaps and this officer was probably frightened to make a decision without having a press ‘expert’ on hand to advise.
    Open government?
    Oh, the good old days when I spoke to, on the record, with regular officers, from PCs to Superintendents and above, and council officials, lowly planning officers, environmental health staff, the works. Because of relationships, we were able to develop a mutual trust.
    That’s largely gone.
    There aren’t the staff to cover meetings. Unless the taxpayer is paying, of course.
    And someone will come along soon and tell me to stop living in the past, that the quality of newspapers and reporting these days is much better than it ever was.

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  • December 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Saddened Journo: I won’t be telling you anything like you suggest.

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