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Regional daily ‘made to sign NDA’ before police briefing on city killings

A police force has denied claims that it made a regional daily sign a non-disclosure agreement ahead of an off-the-record briefing about its handling of a triple killing on its patch.

The Nottingham Post was invited to a briefing last Thursday with Nottinghamshire’s Chief Constable to discuss the police’s actions in relation to last year’s attacks by Valdo Calocane, who killed students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley Kumar and school caretaker Ian Coates.

However editor Natalie Fahy claimed that before reporters were allowed into the call with chief constable Kate Meynell, they were made to sign a non-disclosure agreement, a move she described as “unprecedented.”

The police have flatly denied the newspaper’s claim, saying that while the briefing was held on a non-disclosure basis, it did not legally amount to a non-disclosure agreement.

Earlier Post coverage of the police's handling of the case

Earlier Post coverage of the police’s handling of the case

The Post’s sister website Nottinghamshire Live made the NDA claim in an editorial penned by Natalie and senior reporter Joshua Hartley on Friday.

It read: “Journalists from Nottinghamshire Live, and various other media outlets covering the horrific stabbings on June 13 last year, were invited to an off-the-record media briefing with Nottinghamshire Police at 12.30pm on Thursday, February 22.

“But before reporters were allowed into the call to hear from Chief Constable Kate Meynell they were made to commit to this being a “non-disclosure” meeting

“We believe some of the information disclosed at the meeting is of huge public interest and we believe this unprecedented step is an attempt to prevent reporting.

“Nottinghamshire Live understands one of Nottinghamshire Police’s reasons for not publicly disclosing the information is that current Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigations into their actions around contact with killer Valdo Calocane could be prejudiced by the information given out in the briefing – despite it being information the IOPC should already be aware of.

“We say that the public cannot have trust and confidence, nor the police be seen to be legitimate, without openness and transparency, and we question whether Nottinghamshire Police can truly say it has the trust of the public with this latest move, at a time when its practices are being called into question.”

In a statement today, Nottinghamshire Police head of corporate communications Lyn Heath said: “At no point was the Nottingham Post / Nottinghamshire Live or any other media asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which is a legally binding written contract.

“The email invitation was to a non-disclosable background briefing by the Chief Constable, hosted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and we asked journalists to agree not to report on it in good faith, as is the accepted protocol.

“These briefings are by no means unprecedented and are a commonly-used mechanism to aid understanding that most journalists will recognise. All of the 35 national and local journalists on the call confirmed their understanding prior to the session without comment.

“The Nottingham Post / Nottinghamshire Live would have registered for the event via a link which made clear it is a non-reportable briefing. There was no mention of signing any agreement.”

The News Media Association, which represents the interests of print and online media and lobbies on their behalf to government and regulatory bodies, voiced concern at the episode.

Chief executive Owen Meredith said: “Good communication between the police and the media is essential to ensuring that the public interest is properly served.

“We are very concerned by reports of Nottinghamshire Police apparently using a non-disclosure agreement to prevent the media reporting matters in the public interest relating to a recent high-profile case in the county.

“This kind of tactic damages trust between the force and the media and has no place in an open democratic society.”

Since Calocane’s manslaughter conviction last month, the public have since learned of the force’s failure to catch him before the crimes were committed, and that footage of fatally injured students Barnaby and Grace had been viewed by a former officer with no involvement in the case.

A warrant was issued for Calocane’s arrest in September 2022 – nine months before the killings – after he assaulted a police officer, but he was never tracked down.

It also emerged that a Special Constable had viewed body-worn video footage of the two teenage students being treated by medics on Ilkeston Road on his laptop, which was slammed by Barnaby’s mother as “‘abhorrent voyeurism”.

He was later dismissed at a behind-closed-doors accelerated misconduct hearing.