Met chief Hogan Howe agrees files on journalists should be destroyed 'unless they are a criminal'

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has accepted that files on journalists who are not criminals should be destroyed.

Six journalists last week launched a legal challenge after they found, through subject access requests under the Data Protection Act, surveillance information about them on the Met's “National Domestic Extremism” database.

This came after the Times reported earlier this month that the force's National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit holds 2,000 records which relate to photographers and journalists.

Referring to this information, which was released under the Freedom of Information Act, commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he thought that "we've shot ourselves in the foot a bit by some of the information we've put into the public domain".

Asked on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday about the six journalists' legal challenge, Hogan-Howe said: "I think we need to get to the bottom of some of these claims. 

"I mean certainly some journalists are worried about the fact that their names appear on a certain database.

"From what I see we've probably shot ourselves in the foot a bit by some of the information we have put into the public domain.

"We were asked to look for how many times a journalist appeared in this database – not quite the some as saying that they were the subject of our inquiries. 

"But we have said that we will work together with all the various commissioners who look at this and we will get to the bottom of it."

He added: "Certainly I do not think there’s been any intention to target the journalists for being journalists and therefore stop them investigating things.

"However, there’s no doubt at times there names will come into some of our inquiries."

Asked by Marr whether journalists should be able to see the information held on them and that their files should be "destroyed", Hogan-Howe appeared to agree. He said: "Unless they are a criminal. In which case they deserve no greater protection than you or I."

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