The Sun: called press office the "worst in Britain"
The Sun has accused Norfolk Police press office of giving away an exclusive story to the Eastern Daily Press.
The Sun returned potentially damaging lost police files to the force after they had been given to its reporter John Askill in Northampton. It told the press office it was going to do a story.
Askill and head of news Graham Dudman then found out that the story, used by The Sun last Thursday, was the splash in the EDP on the same day.
Accusing the press office of leaking the story, Dudman said: "The Sun gave the files back. Then they tipped off the EDP. Luckily, we ran the story too. If we hadn’t, our exclusive would have gone to the local paper."
Both Askill and Dudman had brusque conversations with Mervyn Dadd, head of corporate communications at Norfolk Police. Dudman said: "I told him that it was completely unacceptable for Norfolk Police or any police force to tip off the local paper when any national newspaper puts a story to them.
"It’s not a massive story but it’s the principle of the thing. A few months ago The Sun got hold of David Blunkett’s personal security file and we handed that back to to South Yorkshire Police and they didn’t tell anybody about it until the paper had dropped."
Dudman called the episode "amateur hour at Norfolk Police". "Next time we get a good story about Norfolk Police we’ll have to think long and hard about whether we will put it to them. We’ve been stitched up. All good credit to the EDP for running the story but it’s our story not theirs." He described the press office as "the worst in Britain". But Dadd insisted the story could have leaked any time after Askill contacted the force on the previous Tuesday.
"I don’t know where it was leaked from but the information was doing the rounds here for about 24 hours at least. An awful lot of people were incredibly worried about this. Once the genie was out, I couldn’t put the stopper back in the bottle. We did our best to preserve The Sun’s exclusivity." He said he understood the paper’s anger but added: "It’s a massive story here and we needed to get the story out straight when the EDP came to us. I don’t see how it benefits us. It doesn’t do anybody any favours to have the front cover of you local paper with the big words, ‘Secret Police Files Blunder’."
By Jean Morgan