'Hidden away' in Deregulation Bill – plan to make it easier for police to seize journalistic material

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The Newspaper Society has urged the Government to withdraw plans to change the law to make it easier for the police to seize journalistic material.

The changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 are included in clause 47 of the Deregulation Bill which has its second Commons reading on Monday.

The NS notes that the changes to PACE are “hidden away in the Deregulation Bill amidst changes to regulation of knitting yarns, sale of liquer confectionary to children and the repeal of archaic offences of shaking carpets or keeping pigstie”.

The NS says that the changes will take the mandatory procedural safeguards which allow the media to have advance notification of police bids to seize journalistic material and to have objections heard before a judge.

According to the NS, the PACE clauses to be repealed are “vital to the Act’s protection of journalistic material against inappropriate police action.

“They are integral to Parliament’s intention to safeguard freedom of expression, facilitate public interest reporting and maintain media independence of the police. They help not only to protect journalistic material and sources, but journalists themselves.

“Reporters are put at risk, whether reporting riot or investigating wrongdoing, if perceived to be ready sources of information for the police and media organisations too vulnerable to police demands for journalistic material.

“These provisions have been in place for thirty years, authoritatively considered by the courts and pragmatically applied by the police, the media and the courts.”

The NS believes that the Deregulation Bill’s provisions “could enable the current statutory safeguards to be removed completely , reduced, weakened or otherwise radically altered at any later time, without prior consultation of the media affected nor detailed Parliamentary scrutiny of the effect”.

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