New restrictions on briefing journalists are 'unreasonable', claim police chiefs

 

Police chiefs are threatening to open up a new front in the row over the Leveson report, by raising objections to proposals that would clamp down on their relations with journalists.

London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, last week raised doubts about Lord Justice Leveson's suggestion that police should stop giving off-the-record briefings to journalists – and insisted that briefings would "remain an important part of public life".

Police representatives, including crime commissioners and chief officers, have begun discussions on their formal responses to the Leveson proposals. But a number of senior officers have already registered their alarm over a number of the suggestions, which they claim would impose "unreasonable" restrictions on their conduct.

"We are all well aware that there have been problems with the relationship between some officers and the press, and the Leveson inquiry has made this clear," one senior official said last night. "But there is a legitimate basis for most contacts between the police and the media, which properly serve the public interest. It is difficult to see how recording every conversation between an officer and a journalist is practical or worthwhile."

One veteran member of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: "I regret the inference that officers cannot offer a friendly word of advice to a journalist without it being a dereliction of duty. We need to enforce the guidelines that we already operate under, rather than think of more ways to stop us doing our jobs."

Lord Justice Leveson said in his report that: "The term 'off-the-record briefing' should be discontinued."

He added: "The term 'non-reportable briefing' should be used to cover a background briefing which is not to be reported, and the term 'embargoed briefing' should be used to cover a situation where the content of the briefing may be reported but not until a specified event or time. These terms more neutrally describe what are legitimate police and media interactions."

The judge ruled that senior police officers should be expected to record details of any contact they have with reporters and make the details widely available. He also called for a ban on the press or public being told by the police if a crime suspect has been arrested.

In a further attempt to limit "unofficial" contacts with the press, he suggested that police whistle-blowers should not take their concerns to journalists, but to seek out other "confidential avenues in which they may have faith", such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Mr Johnson, a former journalist who as London Mayor oversees the Metropolitan Police, attempted to play down the Leveson proposals. He said: "Clearly, briefings are going to remain an important part of public life. Officials one way or the other are going to have to have trust in the media."

The "interim guidance" issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) states that: "Occasionally there may be a legitimate reason for an off-the-record conversation or briefing to take place, such as where news reporting may have an impact on a current investigation or as a means of preventing inaccuracies or misunderstanding."

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

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003