Crime show kept on TV despite police doubt: Officers feel programmes increase fear

LONDON Weekend Television said yesterday it intended to go ahead with production of a new series of Michael Winner's True Crimes despite apparent criticism from senior police officers who believe such programmes increase public fear and waste police time.

Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has endorsed a Scotland Yard internal policy paper setting out 'new parameters' for officers assisting programme-makers, which criticises lurid depictions of past offences.

It is thought to be aimed at programmes like the True Crimes series, rather than shows such as Crimewatch UK, which is deemed helpful to the police in solving crime and could soon be adopted nation-wide.

But Simon Shaps, LWT's controller of factual programmes, said yesterday that the company's policy on such programmes remained unchanged - they demonstrate the intricacies of police detective work.

LWT said it had enjoyed co-operation of police forces with the making of Crime Monthly, a regional programme in the London area, and the True Crimes series. It said the programmes aimed to explain how the police operate.

The Association of Chief Police Officers will next month consider whether forces nation-wide should also adopt the paper. The association's media advisory committee, chaired by Richard Wells, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, is expected to issue recommendations when it meets, a spokesman said.

'Police forces are aware of the need to make the best possible use of resources and, in providing information to the media on old cases simply for entertainment purposes, chief constables have to ask themselves if it is the best possible use of police officers' time,' he said.

'The interests of the police, the public and certainly the victims of these particular crimes need to be considered very carefully.'

True life crime drama is part of a long British broadcasting tradition stretching back to Edgar Lustgarten, a barrister whose televised reconstruction of murders and other crimes were popular in the 1950s.

Even if the police decide on a full boycott, programmes could still be made using the advice of former senior police officer contracted to programme makers such as LWT.

But there is concern in some broadcasting circles that programmes are glamourising crime. Michael Grade, Channel 4's chief executive, is on record as saying: 'It is real life crime purely for entertainment and for no other purpose. Terrifying crimes are sensationally presented in a glamorous production, out of context for maximum effect and sadly, unwittingly, maximum fear.'

Scotland Yard said: 'There is no intention to withdraw total support for these programmes, but the best use of police resources and the possibility of increasing the fear of crime have to be considered.

'No specific television programmes have been named in the document. Prior to implementation, programme-makers will be informed of any new parameters within which the Metropolitan Police will co-operate.'

Leading article, page 15

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