Disarray as DPP contradicts new guidance on naming of suspects

Keir Starmer defies Home Secretary with insistence that ‘blanket rule’ on arrest is wrong

Controversial plans to protect the identity of suspects arrested by police were in disarray last night after the Director of Public Prosecutions called for more “wriggle room” to name suspects before they were charged.

Keir Starmer QC, who steps down in October as head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said there could be no “blanket rule” that nobody is named at the point of arrest. His comments follow publication of new guidelines by a new police organisation that would see those arrested named in only a few circumstances, such as a clear threat to life.

Critics claim that the new guidelines represent an attack on open justice which could potentially lead to innocent people being named online, or hampering further victims coming forward after a suspect was named.

Police in Lancashire confirmed this month that publicity surrounding the arrest of Stuart Hall, the former BBC presenter who pleaded guilty to a string of sex attacks on girls, led to more of his victims coming forward.

The College of Policing said that its 12-page document was designed to standardise police procedures across the 44 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but The Independent found that some forces intended to continue with their own policies.

Senior officers said that forces had been encouraged not to confirm the identities of suspects when names were put to them by journalists. However, one large force said it would still confirm names to prevent “mistaken reporting”, while Scotland Yard said it would not do so in such circumstances. Another force said it was reviewing its policies after initially emailing staff to say there would be no changes.

The guidance also appeared to contradict Home Secretary Theresa May who wrote last week: “Where the press have already identified the suspect and asked for confirmation from police, the police should confirm it. There should be a presumption of transparency throughout the system.”

The document said that forces must balance the individual’s right for a private and family life with the rights of freedom of expression and the need to ensure fair trials. “Save in clearly identified circumstances, or where legal restrictions apply, the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released by police forces to the press or the public,” the guidance said.

Appearing before the House of Commons Justice Committee, Mr Starmer said: “I’m for a blanket rule on charge, I’m not for a blanket rule on arrest. I would certainly want wriggle room to name in certain types of cases.”

The guidance also called for police to log details of any friendships or relationships with journalists outside of their work. David Allen Green, a lawyer with Preiskel & Co, said that any blanket sanctions against police officers for not declaring their relationships with journalists could be a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a private life. “It’s worryingly vague,” he said.

Chief Constable Andrew Trotter, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the guidance put journalists on the same footing as contractors seeking work from a force.

“For quite close personal friendships between police officers and journalists, outside of their normal role, like going to football matches, I think it’s helpful for an employer to know about that relationship,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'