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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?