Editor blasts police refusal to release criminals' mugshots

Melloy: “the situation is a farce that is wasting our and the police’s time”

Police have been “cooking up any old reason” not to release photographs of convicted criminals to the press, according to the Rotherham Advertiser.

The paid-for weekly (circulation 32,359) has been refused pictures of two people convicted of breaching Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and of one convicted paedophile.

Editor Doug Melloy said: “The situation is a farce, with our time, as well as police time, being wasted arguing about the merits and justification of publication when the police have no policy guidelines.”

The latest refusal to supply a photograph concerns a 21-year-old who was the first Rotherham woman jailed for breaching an ASBO. Police press officers said there was “no valid crimeprevention reason” for releasing her picture as she was already in prison.

According to Melloy, police refused to supply a photograph of a twice-convicted paedophile in the same week because of concerns about the reaction of his and the victim’s family.

Also, Melloy added, the police had refused to release a photograph of a teenager who had been convicted of breaching an ASBO because it could prejudice the sentencing. In response, the Advertiser mocked up a front-page silhouette of the boy and told readers police had refused to release his picture.

“The situation has become ridiculous,” said Melloy. “The police are cooking up any old reason to prevent the publication of photographs. I don’t think they are getting sound legal advice.

“The Home Office has admitted that the public should play a part in identifying breaches of ASBOs. Apart from anything else, names and photographs are news and there is not much difference between identifying someone from their age, address and name and publishing a picture of them.”

 South Yorkshire Police said it has a clear policy on the release of photographs based on a case-by-case consideration, which balances a person’s right to privacy with achieving a policing purpose that also takes into account public interest.

“Recently, we received two requests from the newspaper for photos of a man, Harold Medlock, jailed for indecently assaulting a young girl and a young woman, Joanne Bulmer, jailed for breaching an ASBO,” said a police spokesperson.

“Concerning the former, the newspaper said that the force refused to supply one. This is simply not true.

The reporters we spoke to were all aware that their request was being considered. Sometimes these considerations can take longer than others, which is what happened on this occasion.

The release of the photo was approved, albeit after their deadline.

“The second request was turned down after consideration by our legal department, having taken into account length of sentence and a ‘risk assessment’ on the individual concerned.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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