The Association of Chief Police Officers is considering issuing new guidance which will suggest that all UK police forces stop confirming the names of arrested individuals to the media.
The practice already varies widely from force to force with the result that some individuals are named in the press at the arrest stage while others remain anonymous. Most, but not all, of the 59-plus journalists arrested in the various police inquiries stemming from the hacking scandal have been named.
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Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday reported that only two out of 14 police forces it contacted would confirm the identity of an arrested person if a journalist suggested the right name to them.
Now ACPO is consulting on issuing nationwide guidance to ensure that all police followers adopt the no-names policy at the arrest stage.
A lawyer representing the victims of Jimmy Savile has warned that if Savile was still alive and his arrest was kept secret many more victims would not have come forward.
Trevor Sterling told the Mail on Sunday: “It is difficult to strike a balance , but if someone like Savile’s name is not published victims of sexual abuse would not have the confidence to come forward.”
While several suspects arrested as a result of the Operation Yewtree operation looking at allegations of sexual offences have had their identities made public, others have not.
The Daily Mail notes today that an 83-year-old well known celebrity was arrested in Berkshire on 28 March and has been identified online, but not by the mainstream media – because police have declined to confirm the individual’s identity.
ACPO lead on communications Chief Constable Andy Trotter said: “The police want to have transparent and open relationships with the media and allow for them to hold us to account.
“It is not correct to say police are looking to keep arrests secret, but rather protect the public in line with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations.
“A member of the public could be arrested and then have no further action taken against them. An arrest does not mean someone is guilty and their release might not achieve the same publicity.
“There will most likely be exceptions to this in the interests of justice and to prevent and detect crime.
“We are still in the process of drafting guidance and we are still talking to a range of parties and any decision will have to be approved with the College of Policing.”
Press Gazette understands that there is no question of secrecy continuing once an individual has been charged, though some details may be retained for operational reasons.