AddThis SmartLayers

Editor hits out after police refuse to release mugshots of violent offenders

James JohnsonA regional daily editor has hit out at his local police force after it refused to release mugshots of two violent offenders who each received jail terms.

Last week, HTFP reported on Thames Valley Police’s decision to relax its policy on the release of custody photos to journalists, with such images now to be made available to all offenders given custodial sentences.

However Bournemouth Echo editor James Johnson has now revealed that one of its neighbouring forces, Dorset Police, is moving in the opposite direction.

It recently refused to issue photos of two violent offenders, both of whom received jail terms of two years or more.

In the first case, 27-year-old Jack Dallinger cornered a young woman and her baby at a bus station before sexually assaulting her.

He pleaded guilty to affray and sexual assault and was jailed for 27 months – but police still refused to issue his photograph.

A spokesperson for the force told the Echo that it would not elaborate on the reason for refusal, saying only “it is not appropriate in each case to go into further details as to why the image has been declined”.

Then earlier this month, 35-year-old Ryan Ashford was jailed for two years after launching an unprovoked attack on his partner and her sister during which the latter was bitten.

James, pictured, told HTFP: “Court reporting functions as a deterrent to offending but police refusing to issue custody photos, entirely at their discretion, creates an uneven playing field and the perception that some people are treated differently to others.

“In at least two cases where photos were refused the men in question were convicted of violent and appalling crimes and it is important that their identities should be fully revealed to protect the public.

“A judge described one defendant as being a ‘high risk’ of future offending and yet police are refusing to release his picture – how can that be right?

“Other constabularies are becoming more open and seeing the benefits of releasing more custody images and it is extremely disappointing to have Dorset Police moving in the opposite direction.”

The new policy announced by Thames Valley Police last week allows the media to publish pictures of all offenders whose crimes warrant a custodial term.

Previously, it only provided custody photos if defendants had been given custodial sentences of 18 months or more.

However following a nine-month trial, the force has now decided it will make such images available in respect of any offender who is given a custodial sentence.

Journalists on the patch welcomed the move and urged forces in neighbouring areas to follow suit.