Guidelines on police friendships with journalists a 'top-down, paranoid, defensive over-reaction'

A leading national press crime reporter has attacked 'paranoid' new police guidelines recommending that officers declare personal relationships with journalists.

During a debate on Radio 4’s Media Show, Guardian reporter Sandra Laville called the College of Policing guidance “a top-down, paranoid, defensive over-reaction by officers that are not accountable to anybody”.

During a debate with Association of Chief Police Officers’ media lead Andy Trotter, Laville questioned how the police would use the information and whether the guidance contravened European human rights law.

“These are private relationships,” she told listeners. “Arguably, they are protected by Article 8 of the European Convention [on Human Rights].”

Trotter defended the new rules by saying they were “trying to solve the problem” of “excessive hospitality” between certain officers and journalists.

But Laville pointed out that laws already existed preventing corrupt relationships. She said that senior officers have been “terrified to talk to us” in the wake of the Leveson phone-hacking inquiry and the arrest of journalists and police under Operation Elveden.

She also pointed to the case of a Metropolitan Police officer being suspended for sending texts to a journalist and another being suspended for having a journalist’s number on their mobile phone.

Asked whether his force would take similar action, Trotter responded: “That would be utterly ridiculous to do. We are trying to encourage a greater engagement with the media.”

The guidelines issued this week also said that all contact between police and the media, including off the record briefings and conversations under the Chatham House Rule, “should be authorised and recorded”.

Here are the College of Policing Guidance on Relationships with the Media in full.

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