Scotland Yard chief calls for ban on publicy naming any police suspect

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe requests suspects should remain anonymous until charged, even for non-sexual crimes

Paul Peachey
Friday 16 October 2015 22:57 BST
Britain's most senior police officer has raised questions about his force's ability to respond to a terrorist attack once fresh budget cuts bite.
Britain's most senior police officer has raised questions about his force's ability to respond to a terrorist attack once fresh budget cuts bite. (PA)

The head of Scotland Yard has called on MPs to consider making it a crime to publicly name a suspect in any police inquiry. In March MPs recommended that sex crime suspects should remain anonymous until charged with an offence because of the damage to their reputations.

Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe had backed the move in an appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee, but his request went further and could include consideration of anonymity for non-sexual crimes, Scotland Yard confirmed.

His request was made in connection with The Independent on Sunday’s naming of Lord Brittan as a suspect in a rape case from the 1960s, but a spokesman said the force would “welcome a wider debate around the subject”.

“The Commissioner invites legislators to consider the issue of pre-charge publicity for suspects and whether additional legal safeguards are required,” the force said, adding it was “concerned that legislation allowing suspects to be publicly named before charge, whilst those bringing allegations are anonymous, creates an imbalance which should be addressed.”

Media campaigners have warned that any statutory ban on naming suspects could stop other potential victims and witnesses coming forward.

The issue was raised by the commissioner at the end of a statement defending his force’s handling of its investigation into the late peer.

The IoS revealed in June that police had allowed the peer to go to his grave in January with rape allegations hanging over him despite finding he had no case to answer for the alleged rape of a teenage student in 1967. The force apologised to Lady Brittan this month.

Investigators had initially decided in September 2013 that the former minister had no case to answer. But the force decided to interview Lord Brittan two days after it learned of a letter by Tom Watson MP in May 2014 to the Director of Public Prosecutions criticising the police for its handling of the case.

The IoS named Lord Brittan as a suspect in July last year, but by November – two months before he died – the Crown Prosecution Service again told police there was too little evidence to charge him.

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