A police force has launched a campaign to increase press coverage on the trials of its most serious criminals, following a slump in the number of journalists attending court.
Dorset Police rolled out the “Behind Bars Campaign” today yesterday in partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service and hopes it will ensure that all high-level law-breakers are adequately named and shamed.
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A weekly press release containing information about the offender, details of their trial and a mugshot photo will be sent to all media outlets in the area so that short-staffed newspapers and agencies do not miss “a good story”.
Dorset Police media relations officer Andrew Wright said: “The aim is to maximise coverage of court cases so that the public can see that justice is being done.
“It is all about increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system and showing the people of Dorset what happens at court.
“Some media do cover court but some do not so this will make sure we get maximum publicity for our work.”
The move comes in the wake of massive cutbacks in the media industry brought on by the dwindling economy.
A number of newspaper firms have undergone major restructuring and been hit by job cuts meaning fewer reporters can cover court.
A spokesman for the National Union of Journalists said it was concerned about the falling number of court reporters across the country.
“The loss of specialist court reporters, especially in Dorset, is a serious cause for concern – especially in terms of accuracy of information,” said Mick Holder, chairman of the NUJ’s press and PR branch.
“If local newspapers are totally dependent on public authorities for their information, it means they do not fulfil their role as an independent voice of balance.”
The Behind Bars press releases will be published on Dorset Police’s website as well as being circulated to the media.