Welsh press slam raid police

Roberts: police raided office after leak story

 

Four editors and other senior Welsh journalists have written to the Chief Constable of North Wales Police in protest at the treatment of an agency journalist.

Elwyn Roberts had his office searched by police after he published details of a leaked document that revealed allegations of bullying by North Wales’s deputy chief constable (Press Gazette, 30 January).

The document was seized and Roberts was asked to supply DNA as part of the force’s leak inquiry – which he refused to do.

This week, four editors and six other senior journalists from the North Wales area wrote a letter of protest to chief constable Richard Brunstrom protesting at the treatment of Roberts.

In it they wrote: “We see the seizure of journalistic material, more familiar in Zimbabwe than North Wales, as a dangerous precedent and an affront to the freedom of journalists.

“Could we have an assurance that there will be no repetition of such operations? It is the first time it has happened here in living memory. We are worried about what we perceive to be a threat to our role in investigation and disclosure.”

Roberts said this week: “I was exceptionally grateful. They are all senior journalists and see the dangers if this case was to become the norm. From a journalist’s point of view, the dangers here are obvious.

A number of serving and retired police officers have also written to me expressing their support.”

A North Wales police spokesman said: “This was not an attack on the press. The inquiry is a criminal investigation into the unauthorised release of an official confidential report.

“Whistleblowing to expose corruption or incompetence might be justified, particularly when other channels of investigation have been exhausted. Whistleblowing spurred by malice or vendetta is insidious and the police are bound to challenge this type of behaviour.

“The provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act require this sort of action. The authority of a judge was sought.”

Those who signed the letter in support of Roberts were Derek Bellis, freelance journalist, Colwyn Bay; Richard Williams, editor-in-chief, Evening Leader; Alan Davies, group editor, Trinity Mirror weeklies in North Wales; Jeff Eames, editor, Caernarfon Herald; Sara Price, editor, Cambrian News (Gwynedd); Judith Phillips, senior reporter, North Wales Weekly News; Steve Rogers, coastal editor, North Wales Newspapers; Ivor Wynne Jones, columnist and retired chief Welsh correspondent, Daily Post; John Shone, news editor, BBC Radio Shropshire; and Reg Herbert, retired editor-in-chief, Evening Leader group.

By Dominic Ponsford

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