NUJ challenges proposed changes to police guidance which could mean suspects charged with offences are not named

  • 22 Mar 2023

The NUJ has added its voice to concerns over draft College of Policing guidance which would give forces in England and Wales the option of not releasing the names of people charged with offences.

Professor Chris Frost, chair of the National Union of Journalists’ Ethics Council, said:

“Open justice is vital for a just legal system and the public deserves to know who is charged with what in their name. The police have slowly eroded the right of the public to know what is being done in their name, first failing to identify suspects, then failing to name those arrested. It was only a matter of time before they took the first step to stop naming those charged. They must pull back from this final removal of the right to know so that those who have anything to add to a criminal charge, either in support of the person charged or in support of the police can come forward. It should not be up to the police or the defence to decide what we get to know."

The draft guidance tells forces that suspects charged with offences “can be named”. The existing guidance is that they “should be named”. It says: “Forces should be more inclined to release charging information where the crime is of a serious nature, such as rape or murder, where the incident has already been reported in the media or on social media sites, or for public reassurance reasons.”

A Press Gazette report quotes Rebecca Camber, crime and security editor of the Daily Mail and chair of the Crime Reporters Association, saying this guidance  could mean that if a journalist asked the police whether Boris Johnson had been fined over Partygate, the answer would be: “We can’t tell you.”  

The report says that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act, overseen by the Information Commissioner’s Office are understood to be the driving factors behind the proposed media policy changes.

The NUJ now intends to raise its concerns with the College of Policing.

Police could keep names secret after charge under new draft guidelines

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