DPP talks ease fears of evidence clampdown

A breakthrough in the dispute between the media and the Crown Prosecution Service over the clampdown on releasing material to the press has been made this week.

It follows a meeting on Tuesday between the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, and representatives of the Society of Editors, Newspaper Society, Sky, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITN, ITV and the BBC.

Society of Editors executive director, Bob Satchwell, described the meeting as “very positive”. He added: “We were told very clearly that the DPP and CPS want to make information and material available to the media and public as much as possible. They want to make the courts more open than they are now.”

The press was alarmed when the CPS banned prosecutors and police from giving the media material, such as CCTV pictures and interviews with defendants, used in evidence at trials ( Press Gazette : 28 October). Following media protests, it was agreed that “non-contentious” prosecution evidence could be released.

Now new guidelines are expected to be drawn up following a consultation.

Satchwell said he hoped there would be “a new system which is understood by everyone and which could be applied across the country through the regional organisation of the CPS”.

ITN head of compliance, John Battle, said: “It was a positive meeting – a step forward towards better relations between the media and the CPS.”

He added: “It’s interesting to note that they’ve confirmed we are in no better or worse position than we were before these new guidelines were introduced. In some circumstances material will be disclosed.

“It’s a step in the right direction, in terms of establishing a line of communication between prosecuting organisations and media organisations”

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