Editorial: The price we pay for open justice

The Association of Chief Police Officers is recommending that forces do not reveal the identities of those they have arrested, where once it was a matter of discretion

Share

With flagrant disregard for the sentiments of the Home Secretary – as set out in a column in a tabloid newspaper last week – the Association of Chief Police Officers is recommending that forces no longer reveal the identities of those they have arrested. Where once it was a matter of discretion whether names were confirmed, secrecy should now be the norm, Acpo says.

There are difficulties in identifying suspects. The taint sticks even if charges are never brought, proponents of anonymity argue, citing the swathe of ageing TV personalities paraded across front pages thanks to Operation Yewtree. The alternative is so much worse, however. Not only because naming names may embolden other victims to come forward, as the Stuart Hall case amply illustrated. There is also a broader principle at stake here, the magnitude of which can hardly be overstated.

Against the backdrop of the Leveson Inquiry and its chill on relations between police and media, the question of identification too often becomes one of press freedom (or lack thereof). But such concerns are only a side issue. Of far greater importance are the implications for the openness of the criminal justice system.

There can be no compromise. Transparency is not only the guarantor of justice, it is – no less crucially – the guarantor of public trust. At best, secrecy breeds suspicion; at worst, corruption. Only the most exceptional circumstances, therefore, can justify the activities of police or courts being hidden from view.

Nor do the experiences of Chris Jefferies tip the balance. The innocent Bristol landlord certainly suffered at the hands of the press after his arrest for the murder of Joanna Yeates. But he was already protected in law, as the damages paid out by eight newspapers attest.

The question now is whether Theresa May is willing to fight. We can only hope she is. Law enforcement must take place in daylight. And the police must not be allowed to set their own rules. If the price is the privacy of an unfortunate few – so be it. It is a price worth paying.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect