AddThis SmartLayers

New police guidance would making naming of suspects optional

Editors have shared “deep concerns” about plans that could give the police the option of whether to name individuals upon charge.

Proposed changes to the College of Policing’s Media Relations guidance would mean suspects charged with offences “can be named” whereas current guidance states that suspects “should be named”.

Other proposed changes include recommending to forces that charging information is only released “where the crime is of a serious nature such as rape or murder” or where the incident has already been reported in the media or on social media sites.

The Society of Editors, which has reviewed the proposed changes alongside the Crime Reporters Association, has stressed its opposition to the changes and said that any amendments to the guidelines for all forces in England and Wales, must “strengthen” rather than “restrict” the public’s right to know.


SoE executive director Dawn Alford said: “The Society is deeply concerned that proposals contained within the revised guidance look set to place unprecedented restrictions upon the flow of information provided by the police to journalists.

“Misplaced concerns around data protection and defendants’ privacy rights are being used as a basis to allow forces to choose which criminal charges they confirm to the media and non-custodial penalties such as fines, out of court disposals and cautions, could become non-verifiable with press officers.

“A successful working relationship between the police and the media remains essential to policing legitimacy in the UK and the Society remains in dialogue with the College of Policing to reverse these draconian proposals and strengthen, rather than restrict, the public’s right to know.”

News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith has also criticised the plan.

He said: “We are deeply concerned by these proposed changes which would weaken the flow of information from police forces to the general public, undermining the public right to know.

“Professional guidance must create a framework to help and support police officers in achieving a good relationship with the media, rather than erecting new barriers that entrench secrecy.

“We urge the College of Policing to work with publishers and editors through constructive consultation to establish guidance which enables the public to fully see and understand the important work of our police forces.”

The College of Policing is putting the proposed changes down to the need to comply with new data protection law, saying forces “must consider their data protection obligations as well as the need for open justice and transparency”.

A spokesperson for the College said: “A successful working relationship between the police service and the media is vital.

“Guidance is in place to support the relationship between the media and police forces and was previously developed working with the media.

“The guidance requires updating following the introduction of new data protection legislation.

“We are working with the Society of Editors, the Crime Reporters Association and the Information Commissioner’s Office to develop new guidance which will be published soon.”