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Stop treating journalists like criminals, Met chief tells police: Cressida Dick says she wants to 'reset' force's relationship with the media

November 14, 2017 1:24 AM
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Police must be open and transparent with the public and stop treating journalists like criminals, Britain's top police officer said yesterday.

Cressida Dick wants to 'reset' the relationship with the media to help catch criminals, galvanise public support and enable greater scrutiny of the force.

The Scotland Yard boss said the Press plays a 'vital' role in society – often pursuing the same goals as police – and many criminals are behind bars thanks to its work.

But she warned that difficult conversations lie ahead as forces struggle to balance the books amid rising crime and the ongoing terrorist threat.

Speaking at the Society of Editors' annual conference, Miss Dick said it is not acceptable for officers to be forced to declare links to journalists as they must do with criminals.

Instead she said officers and journalists must both ensure they always act with integrity.

'We need the public's support and help to put bad people behind bars,' she said.

'Journalists and police officers are often working towards the same goals.

'Both want to investigate those intent on harm, both want to expose what that harm is, bring it to an end and expose those responsible.

Her comments signal an end to years of mistrust sparked by the phone hacking scandal and subsequent Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

Dozens of journalists and public officials were arrested amid allegations of bribery, corruption and gross intrusion into private lives.

The fallout left a generation of police chiefs reluctant to speak to the media as relations entered a 'deep freeze' amid mutual distrust.

Miss Dick's predecessor, Sir Bernard, now Lord Hogan-Howe, struggled to escape the charge that his vigorous pursuit of journalists was disproportionate to the claims they faced.

Addressing an audience of senior journalists in Cambridge, Miss Dick highlighted the important role journalism plays in society. She said appeals through traditional and social media, combined with 'good old-fashioned detective work', have brought many criminals to justice.

'Every day we see crimes solved because of the media attention – that is one reason why our relationship is so important,' she said.

Miss Dick said being 'honest with the public' may lead to 'critical headlines and angry columnists' but pledged not to 'promise something that won't be delivered'.

'Let us be clear, compared to most, I suspect nearly all of the world, UK police are extremely accountable, scrutinised and transparent.

Addressing the bribery scandal, known as Operation Elveden, Miss Dick said she 'will not apologise' for the investigation. She described locking up corrupt police officers and other public officials who illicitly sold information as a 'good result'. She urged that 'we move on' from the anger caused over journalists who were charged and then cleared.

Miss Dick said police officers should not be required to disclose a relationship with a journalist in the same way as a criminal or someone on bail.


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