By Colin Crummy The Worcester Evening News has claimed police acted “against the spirit”
the new protocol to increase media access to criminal trial material by
refusing to release a picture of a convicted sex offender.
Publicity and Criminal Justice System Protocol for Working Together,
agreed between the Crown Prosecution Service, media representatives and
the Association of Chief Police Officers last month, encourages the
disclosure of material rather than keeping it from the press.
when the Evening News requested a picture of Andrew Hall to run with
its front-page story last week, the West Mercia Police refused.
The newspaper provided the police press office with a copy of the protocol but was refused the photograph four hours later.
It went to press with a blank picture frame on its cover under the headline “The sex pervert our police don’t want you to see”.
Stewart Gilbert said: “This was just the sort of situation the new
agreement is designed to address. Clearly, West Mercia Police were
acting against the spirit of the protocol. Given the disturbing nature
of Andrew Hall’s crimes, we had a justifiable public interest motive in
publishing his picture.”
The newspaper said that it was told that
police guidelines remained the same and that the photograph was not
being published contemporaneously – a claim it refutes.
spokeswoman said: “West Mercia Constabulary is committed to being open,
honest and accountable where it is appropriate and responsible.
request for an image made to the force by the media is considered on a
case by case basis. Clear guidelines are in place regarding the release
of pictures of defendants to the media at the conclusion of court
cases, and these were followed on this occasion.”
executive director of the Society of Editors, said it would take time
for the protocol, which was launched at the society’s annual conference
last month, to be embedded into the system.
He added: “What is
important is this incident shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of the
protocol. The whole point [of the initiative] is that as it filters
down, it will lead to a tremendous improvement at the end of trials.”