Review of data act will involve media

Blunkett, left, is acting on Newell’s request for the media to be consulted








Home Secretary David Blunkett has pledged that the review of data protection in the light of the Soham murders will include consultation with the media.

Blunkett made his promise in a response to Newspaper Society director David Newell, who raised the concerns of regional papers that the media should be consulted over the review.

The regional press has continuously complained that the Data Protection Act was being wrongly applied by police forces to deny newspapers legitimate information on crimes and accidents long before it became an issue in the Soham case.

Many regional editors believed Soham was “an accident waiting to happen” when it was revealed that data protection laws had been blamed for concealing information about murderer Ian Huntley’s past.

The Home Secretary told the NS: “I have been reflecting further on David Newell’s suggestion that the data protection review prompted by the Soham case should include consultation with media interests.

“I have asked Julia Simpson, director of communications at the Home Office, to write to you about this to see how we can bring in the society’s views on data protection more effectively, whether that is through the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Media Advisory Group, or the working group considering data protection, or some other means.”

Newell highlighted the media’s data protection concerns at a Newspaper Conference lunch for David Blunkett in January. He followed this up with further representations to the Home Secretary on media issues ranging from data protection to terrorism.

NS director of political affairs, Santha Rasaiah, said: “We welcome this helpful move by the Home Secretary to address press problems.

We hope the Government, police and others will take a constructive approach and address the concerns of the media about clampdowns on release of information to the public.”

Editors’ responses to the Local Newspaper Week press freedom survey conducted by the NS have stressed how public services try to block enquiries and obstruct reporting by claiming, rightly or wrongly, that data protection controls prevent the disclosure of the information requested.

by Jon Slattery

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