A controversial "name and shame" campaign using posters of convicted criminals has been put on hold after the High Court ruled that the police initiative may be illegal.
Essex Police had wanted to publish a photograph and details of Gary Ellis, a 28-year-old burglar, on about 40 posters around the offender's home town of Brentwood. But yesterday Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, questioned the legality of using criminals with children in the scheme.
The decision followed a legal challenge by lawyers representing Ellis, who is divorced with a five-year-old daughter. Ellis was jailed for three and a half years last July after pleading guilty to 11 offences, including burglary and theft, and asked for 18 other offences of dishonesty to be taken into consideration.
Lord Woolf, sitting with Mr Justice Goldring, refused to rule out the general idea of poster schemes, but they expressed concern over the damage which might be suffered by children, who also had the right to protection of their private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges said: "It does not need much imagination to see how a poster campaign in relation to a child's father could produce unfortunate reactions in the playground of the child's school."
The judges said the court could not give the scheme the go-ahead without further reappraisal, and until more information was available "the light must remain at amber".
Essex Police said they had already decided not to use Ellis's photograph, partly because his case has already been widely publicised as a result of the court challenge. The police said they were pleased that the judges had not "closed the door" on the scheme.