Why a dangerous police chief ban on announcing arrests will be an own goal for justice

 Suspects arrested  already in former Elm Tree Guest House investigation  Pic courtesy: Exaro

Suspects arrested already in former Elm Tree Guest House investigation Pic courtesy: Exaro

A furore has broken out rightly on  daft and dangerous proposals by the Association of  Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to refuse to release the names of people they arrest in the course of  criminal investigations. As the Mail on line reported this weekend (http://bit.ly/12BhfaN )  the proposal has been condemned as secret justice and produced angry responses from Index on Censorship and the Society of Editors. The police seem to be using Leveson as cover to do this.

But it smacks of the worst kind of justice where people disappear after being taken off the streets in countries like Russia, Zimbabwe and tinpot dictatorships.

But there is a practical aspect of this policy that has been completely overlooked. It is  because Acpo have taken the view that they are a news supplier which gives the media stories and  forgotten that it is two way traffic. The investigative media also uncover crooks and give the police grounds for prosecutions.

All this will fall  apart under this new directive from Acpo when both the police and the press are pursuing the same long term investigation and their paths cross. If the police don’t tell the press and the public who they have arrested they will be a very grave danger that when these people come to trial – the prosecution case will collapse because vital information to be revealed to the jury will already been published.

The reason is simple. At the moment if the police announce arrests have been made in a long term investigation – the media take a decision to no longer publish information about that individual which could prejudice their trial. But if the media don’t know or the police won’t tell them they have been arrested they can at the moment quite legitimately publish what they like within the libel laws.

Lord Justice Leveson: Used as excuse by ACPO Pic courtesy of Leveson inquiry website

Lord Justice Leveson: Used as excuse by ACPO Pic courtesy of Leveson inquiry website

The only way round this would be for the media to refer every story  that involves criminal activity to the police to check whether they thought of arresting anyone. This would amount to a police state – with the police telling editors what they could or could not publish.

This is not theoretical. At the  moment through Exaro News(http://www.exaronews.com)  a team of journalists we are involved in a very long and complicated investigation – over 40 stories so far – into an historic paedophile ring which operated partly through the London borough of Richmond and at Elm Guest House in the 1980s.

The police have arrested two people John Stingemore,  who ran Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond, and  Father Tony McSweeney, a Roman Catholic priest ,so far and are continuing investigations into other people, including highly placed VIPs, peers and MPs.

Anyone reading this blog or following Exaro  would have noticed there has been mighty little written about this two individuals since their arrest. It is not that we don’t know stuff about both of them. But we are not putting it on line because we KNOW from the police there have been arrested and we don’t want them to escape justice by wrecking a  fair trial.

But imagine we didn’t know. the whole police case  against them could collapse. No not too melodramatic.

What Acpo fail to appreciate is that investigative journalists  work like detectives. They gather information through painstaking inquiries, trace contacts from witnesses to victims and  often find out the same information  as the police about  suspects. Sometimes they are ahead, sometimes it is the police.

To decide not to announce the names of arrested suspects will in these cases be a spectacular own goal for the police. What we need is co-operation  and dialogue  not a wall of silence.

16 thoughts on “Why a dangerous police chief ban on announcing arrests will be an own goal for justice

  1. Yes, quite. Are they planning only on keeping the arrest secret or will charging be secret too? I don’t see how we’re supposed to know who we can write about. But if we break the law, at least no one will know when we get arrested ..

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  2. “But imagine we didn’t know. the whole police case against them could collapse. No not too melodramatic.”

    A conspratoralist theorist might suggest that a police force that may have possibly known about certain activties are indeed hoping for their case to collapse? The Daniel Morgan murder case from the outside suggests a familiar variation on a theme?

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    • In 2005 I was interviewed by the Police IPCC re. abuse at Richmond. When I got to the part about 27 Rocks Lane (aka Elm Guest House) the interview was stopped and I was told not to mention it again or else.

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  3. ACPO lead on communications Chief Constable Andy Trotter said: “The police want to have transparent and open relationships with the media and allow for them to hold us to account.
    “It is not correct to say police are looking to keep arrests secret, but rather protect the public in line with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
    “A member of the public could be arrested and then have no further action taken against them. An arrest does not mean someone is guilty and their release might not achieve the same publicity.
    “There will most likely be exceptions to this in the interests of justice and to prevent and detect crime.
    “We are still in the process of drafting guidance and we are still talking to a range of parties and any decision will have to be approved with the College of Policing.”

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    • @jason lavan and yet heres the twist the MSM are also claiming levenson for the ‘we cannot name names for legal reasons’ its tosh ..of course they can they just want to blame levenson.maybe the cops do as well..i dunno ..what a world we will hear sod all before long..

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  4. Pingback: Alternative News Network – Why a dangerous police chief ban on announcing arrests will be an own goal for justice

  5. Can you think of a reason why the media haven’t mentioned the convicted paedophile named in the link below in connection with the Lee Boxall/St Dunstan’s Church investigation? He was named by the Mail in 2011, Mirror in Sept 2012, as well as some local papers.

    I don’t think there’s been a single mention of him by any news outlet since September, and Leveson report came out in November. Are editors scared of naming convicted paedophiles due to Leveson, or is there another explanation?

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jailed-gravedigger-william-lambert-probed-1327473

    BBC are now reporting on it as “a routine dig” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22089293

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    • I met Mr Lambert in his Cheam Churchyard back in the early 2000’s – he spoke at length about the Freemasons @ the LBRuT (Surrey County Lodge). Perhaps thats why a lot of people are steering away from Elm and the paedophiles linked to Elm and other places.

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  6. Pingback: News: More on “secret arrests” – the Judges and the Sun | Inforrm's Blog

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