Moral dilemma #14

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is considering issuing new guidance recommending that UK police forces do not reveal the names of arrested individuals to the media.

The issue was briefly raised as a topic in the Leveson report: “I think that it should be made abundantly clear that save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances (for example, where there may be an immediate risk to the public), 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.”

Publishing the identity of a suspect is potentially very damaging to a person’s reputation as the public may assume there is “no smoke without fire”. A few years ago, a Bristol landlord, wrongly arrested following a tenant’s murder, suffered a severe character assassination at the hands of the tabloid press. He was subsequently exonerated and was able to claim redress via the libel courts.

If the names of arrested individuals are kept out of the public domain, will victims of sex crimes be less likely to come forward, because they never learn that their abuser has been arrested on another charge? Should we have the right to know who the police have taken into custody, not least because it helps to ensure that the state cannot engage in arbitrary arrests of people (e.g. the covert detention of people deemed to be dissidents)?


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About thespeedofdark

David Winship has written an unauthorised autobiography and several critically disdained literary tomes. His work is frequently compared with Steinbeck, Orwell and Hemingway, but unfortunately Mike Steinbeck, Daisy Orwell and Howard Hemingway were all terrible writers. He has been totally overlooked for the most prestigious literary awards worldwide, which is a shame as most of the words are spelled correctly. In fact, his books contain material that ranks with the finest literary works in history: all the right letters are there, just not necessarily in the right order.

Dave’s blog (The Speed Of Dark Blog) is part of his crusade for truth and justice and universal entitlement to free real ale. It may well be that his whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

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