Police PRs scuppered our scoop'

Bassey: police complained about his conduct

Birmigham’s Sunday newspaper has accused police press officers of deliberately scuppering its exclusives.

Sunday Mercury editor David Brookes has made a formal complaint to West Midlands Police over an incident involving reporter Amardeep Bassey.

Bassey contacted the police press office on Friday to ask it to confirm a sixth person had been arrested in connection with the shooting of two girls on 1 January, 2003.

The press officer confirmed a man had been arrested in mid-November. A few minutes later the story went out on the police press telephone line.

Brookes said: “We rely on police press offices, as we are a Sunday paper, to keep it exclusive. We are very disappointed with West Midlands Police and I’ve made that clear to the press officers there.

“It’s the difference between getting a fully exclusive story and being something we have to follow up because it goes out on Friday evening television and newspapers.

“It is getting to the stage where we don’t want to go to the police in case this sort of thing happens. This was not an isolated incident.”

The West Midlands Police responded by criticising Bassey for “haranguing” its officers for answers.

In a statement it said: “A decision was made that if and when a media enquiry was received, the information would be released on a general basis. No offer of exclusivity was made to the Mercury when its reporter made his inquiry.

“Indeed, at the time of the Sunday Mercury’s inquiry the defendant had already appeared in court twice so the charge against him could hardly be counted as an exclusive.

“You should also be aware we made a formal representation to Mr Brookes about the conduct of Amardeep Bassey, who we feel acted in a totally unacceptable manner on Friday, 12 December. As well as the issue of the charge, Mr Bassey had also made a separate complex inquiry which we were attempting to deal with as quickly as possible.

“On Friday afternoon Mr Bassey was ringing every few minutes and haranguing staff for answers. It was explained to him we were dealing with his detailed inquiries, on two different subjects, and a response would be forthcoming in time for his deadline.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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