- Two arrested over alleged leaks to press
- Claims that police were relying on information appearing in the press
- Jefferies calls for six-month prison sentence for naming uncharged suspects
Chris Jefferies, the former suspect in the murder of Bristol architect Joanna Yeates, claims to have received confirmation police leaked his name to the press – leading to ‘open season’against him in the media.
Jefferies told the Leveson Inquiry his suspicions over police leaks were confirmed in a letter from the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary and that an internal inquiry had led to the arrest of two people, though no charges had been brought.
The former schoolteacher was told the leak was an ‘inadvertent’disclosure.
Jefferies believes it confirms evidence given to the inquiry by Daily Mirror Richard Wallace, who said his reporters had been given off-the-record guidance that Jefferies had been arrested.
Wallace also said that after Jefferies was arrested the paper was told – again off-the-record – police were confident that “Mr Jefferies was their man”.
‘The fact that the police leaked my name to the press at the time of my arrest led to ‘open season’ against me in the media with the worst reporting beginning to appear in the press on Friday 31 December 2010,’said Jefferies in a written statement.
He added: ‘As I say, I do not believe that the press would have published the stories that ensued without confirmation from the police of the identity of the person arrested as the risk of naming the wrong person and/or defamation would have been too great.
‘However, armed with confirmation of my name and, it appears, other information from the police… the media seemed to consider that there were no holds barred…”
He later received a substantial libel payout from eight national newspapers and the Daily Mirror and The Sun were found guilty of contempt of court.
Jounalists should be jailed for naming uncharged suspects
Jefferies also alleged that, though he did not realise it the time, it was clear at the time of his arrest that ‘the police were relying on information that was appearing in the press for material upon which to base their questions”.
He believes the press coverage that appeared while he was in custody ‘may have had a bearing on the police decision to detain me for three days of questioning when there were no grounds for reasonable suspicion of any involvement and absolutely no evidence of my involvement in the offence being investigated”.
Asked if he had any recommendations, Jefferies said police leaks to the press should be ‘considered a far more serious offence”.
He also referred to calls calls by MP Anna Soubry for legislation to impose a six-month prison sentence on any journalist who names an uncharged suspect.
‘Whilst the proposals was ultimately withdrawn after government opposition, I would wholeheartedly support it,” he said.
Jefferies is currently bringing a case against ASC for false imprisonment, breach of human rights and trespass to person and property.