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Journalist explains why newspaper could not name arrested MP

Charles Thomson 1A regional journalist has penned a lengthy explainer on why his title was previously unable to name an MP who was being investgated for rape.

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell last week unmasked himself as the MP who had been on police bail for almost two years, under investigation for rape and other sexual offences.

After the Metropolitan Police told him he faced no further action, the Tory politician issued a statement saying he had been “completely exonerated.”

It enabled the Romford Recorder finally to report that he was the MP in question, after years of complaints from readers asking why they had not previously named him.

In his explainer, investigations reporter Charles Thomson said Mr Rosindell’s identity had been “one of the worst-kept secrets in Britain.”

Wrote Charles, pictured: “For almost two years, we have received a stream of emails, letters and online posts criticising us for not reporting on the arrest or Mr Rosindell’s absence from the House of Commons.

“But we could not respond to these messages for the same reason we could not report the story – we would have been breaking the law.

“We knew within hours that Mr Rosindell was the arrested MP, but we were banned from telling our readers.”

Charles went on to explain how the law has gradually been changed to prevent the press from factually reporting on high-profile people under police investigations.

He cited the cases of Christopher Jeffries, an innocent man whose arrest over the Joanne Yeates murder in Bristol was widely reported, former MP Harvey Proctor, falsely accused by fantasist Carl Beach of murdering children, and Sir Cliff Richard who successfully sued the BBC for reporting his wrongful arrest for alleged historic sex offences.

The precedent established in Sir Cliff’s case was reinforced by the UK Supreme Court in 2022 when a businessman under investigation over alleged corruption and bribery was named by Bloomberg News.

Judges ruled that “a person under criminal investigation has, prior to being charged, a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information relating to that investigation”.

Wrote Charles: “Last week, Harvey Proctor told the Recorder that Mr Rosindell’s protracted period on bail had left him trying to do his job with one arm tied behind his back.

“But thanks to these legal precedents, so were the press. We were banned from naming the arrested MP – but press in other legal jurisdictions were not, meaning the news spread on social media while we were gagged.

“Online posts using slurs that assumed Mr Rosindell’s guilt and making false assertions about his case were viewed by tens of thousands of people, while our award-winning editorial team – along with the rest of the press – were barred from publishing the facts.”

Charles’s piece can be read in full here.