In the Media

Leveson Report: Senior officers should publicly declare all contact with journalists

PUBLISHED November 29, 2012

He also called for the names of those arrested or suspected of a crime to be withheld from the press, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as an immediate risk to the public.

The Home Office should also consider whether journalists should have to sign a contract with all their confidential sources in order to protect them, the Leveson report said.

The Appeal Court judge was it was "certainly remarkable that Parliament might have provided greater protection for journalistic material than in relation to legal professional privilege as a matter of general law".

All officers of the rank of commander or assistant chief constable and above should have to "record all of their contact with the media" and make it publicly available, the report added.

So-called "off the record" briefings should also be scrapped amid public concern, "not least owing to the perception that certain journalists were favoured with information in exchange for hospitality or other tangible benefits", Lord Justice Leveson said.

"I am concerned about the lack of clarity inherent in the use of the term and in the precise information to which it refers," he said.

Instead, they should be replaced with briefings which are either embargoed to a particular time or completely non-reportable briefings covering the background of cases or operations.

These terms "more neutrally describe what are legitimate police and media interactions", he said.

Guidance for forces taking the press on operations should also be strengthened and, more generally, "I think that it should be made abundantly clear that save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances, the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the press nor the public", he added.

It was also "good practice" for a press officer to be present "in circumstances where policy or organisation matters may be on the agenda for discussion", the judge said.

Senior officers' records of their contact with the media "need be no more than a very brief note to the effect that a conversation has taken place and the subject matter of that conversation", his report said.

"Where the discussion involves a more significant operational or organisational matter, then it may be sensible for a more detailed note to be retained."

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the lead on communications for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it would consider all the recommendations carefully.

"Police should have a professional, open and transparent relationship with the public and the media," he said.

"The media can provide a vital role in communicating with the public, helping society to solve crime, and holding public institutions to account."