Public has right to know "within boundaries" Leveson Inquiry told
Marta Cooper: Public has right to know "within boundaries" Leveson Inquiry told
27 Mar 12

The head of corporate communications at Avon and Somerset Police told the Leveson Inquiry that the public has a right to know “within boundaries”.

Discussing the “unrelenting” media frenzy during the inquiry into the murder of Joanna Yeates in 2010, Amanda Hirst stressed the importance that any information that might have prejudiced the integrity of the investigation would be “contained”.

Hirst said there was a “lot of inaccurate reporting” throughout the inquiry, which “created problems for the investigation team”. She cited a request made by a BBC journalist for an interview with the parents of the murdered Bristol architect, which the force declined on their behalf.

When asked by Lord Justice Leveson why she did not take the matter to Ofcom, Hirst said it was felt that “it probably would not have made a substantial difference”, noting that the force was in the middle of a “fast-moving” investigation.

“We are robust in complaining when we feel the justification to do that,” she said.

Also speaking this afternoon, Barbara Brewis, a former reporter and current manager of media and marketing at Durham Constabulary, stressed the importance of having a solid working relationship based on trust with the media, particularly the local press, but said journalists are “not your friends”.

Her colleague, Chief Constable Jonathan Stoddart, also emphasised the “high-trust” relationship the force has among its staff and with local media. “They have an important social role in holding us to account and challenging poor practice, improper conduct or malfeasance,” Stoddart wrote in his witness statement.

He flirted with the idea of a “central repository that records contact and content of conversations”, suggesting it would be feasible in a constabulary such as Durham’s, but less so in a bigger force such as the Metropolitan Police.

Brewis disagreed with claims that a logging system would have chilling effect. “If it’s the right thing to do, we’ll do it,” she said.

The Inquiry continues tomorrow.

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