continued to publish the pictures
Daily Express, left, and Daily Mirror
West Mercia Constabulary is consulting its solicitors after two newspapers continued using photographs of runaway couple Naomi Mills and Matthew Brooks in defiance of the expiry of the force’s licence to print them.
The Daily Mirror and Daily Express used the photos on Wednesday last week, the day after West Mercia carried a message on its media voicebank saying that the investigation was no longer a missing persons inquiry but one involving charges of abduction against former PC Brooks, as the Worcestershire families of the pair had declined to allow their further use.
Although grateful to the press for the coverage which saw Mills’ safe return, they were adamant they did not want pictures of her to continue to be published.
Carl Baldacchino, deputy force press officer for West Mercia, told Press Gazette: “We know that some media organisations continued using a picture after this time and this matter has been referred to our solicitors.
“Photographs of Mills and Brooks were obtained to assist police appeals to locate them. The family consented to their use for this purpose only and they were issued with our standard licence agreement. Although we had no policing purpose to do so, we did seek consent from the family to allow the media to continue using the images after both were found but the families declined.
“The licence was clearly written, easy to understand and the media accepted it as they have many times in the past. It expired and the family did not allow us to renew it.
“We cannot compel a family to provide pictures, statements or take advice. Some families are more ‘media friendly’ than others. The difficulty arose on this occasion because no media organisation managed to source their own pictures. We cannot fill that gap if no policing purpose is served.”
The force also wrote to editors asking them to review their arrangements for reporting at Mills’ home.
Baldacchino said: “They had all been there for four days, they had all done the knock on the door, they had all put notices on the door and they had all made bids.
“She was possibly a victim of crime but not a criminal and she was physically distressed by the media continuing to be outside her home.”
The media had got wind of the letter being drafted, he said, and they decided to move out before there had been a formal request.
The 15-year-old went missing with Brooks on 28 February and was discovered in the north of Scotland by Herald reporter David Ross.
By Jean Morgan