Britain's top police chief backs law to keep courts secret - even when journalists know the suspects

  • Under new rules police will be banned from confirming suspects
  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe agrees rules should be strict as possible
  • Lord Justice Leveson also called for a blanket ban on naming suspects

By Robert Verkaik


Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe

Controversial support: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe agrees that all arrests should be carried out secretly

Britain's most senior police chief is backing controversial rules to ensure that all arrests, including those involving high-profile figures, are carried out in secret.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has insisted that new guidelines being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers are as draconian as possible.

It follows Lord Justice Leveson’s call in his report on the media for a blanket ban on naming suspects.

Under the new rules, police will be banned from confirming suspects’ names, even when journalists know their identity.

Without confirmation, the legal risks of incorrect identification will prevent the media publishing suspects’ names.

A senior source who is close to the proposed rules and has met Andy Trotter, the ACPO officer in charge of the guidance, said Sir Bernard was driving through the changes.

The source said part of the reason for his determination to enforce the blanket restriction was growing concern that Scotland Yard was committing disproportionate resources to high-profile arrests.

He said: ‘It was put to me that ‘‘we arrest so many people that it would be ridiculous to name everybody’’.’

The claim emerged at the same time as the former Director of Public Prosecutions condemned the police plans.

Lord Macdonald QC, said: ‘There should be a presumption police will reveal names of arrested people... It’s important the public are told who police are locking up.’

Sir Bernard, who is in charge of more than 30,000 police officers, is also said to be concerned about the harm caused by publicity surrounding an arrest when the individual may later be released without charge.


Home Secretary Theresa May

Support: Home Secretary Theresa May also backed plans for anonymity

The police plan for ‘secret arrests’ is opposed by the Law Commission, the Government’s own adviser on legal reform, which believes it is in the interests of justice that police release the names of everyone who is arrested, apart from exceptional cases.

Lord Macdonald said: ‘My experience as DPP showed it is common that an arrest triggers other victims  to come forward.’

Yesterday it emerged that Home Secretary Theresa May had intervened in the debate by writing to all chief constables, saying she also backed plans for anonymity in arrests.

‘I believe that there should be a right to anonymity at arrest, but I know there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that  an arrested suspect should  be named,’ she said.


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

We already are a police state, closely related to the STASI of East Germany. Free speech, free press and freedom of thought is has been the hallmark of the UK, keep it that way.

Click to rate     Rating   280

People are innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. Trial circus by exaggerated media stories is not acceptable in a democratic society. Stained reputation is impossible to restore at a later stage.

Click to rate     Rating   164

Our principles of law are based on the Magna Carta. For those who don't know why something has been good enough for nearly a 1,000 years, I suggest they read history. The only beneficiaries of these measures are the governments that wish to oppress Its people! Have we not condemned and attacked other nations that don't follow our democracy?

Click to rate     Rating   234

He is not advocating Chinese style policing, he is simply saying that until proven guilty, suspects should not have to face a trial by media. That is wholly in line with the UK's constitutional foundations as they currently stand, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Click to rate     Rating   87

This would be a truly frightening development. This proposed law would allow the police to apprehend anyone and everyone they wish, on a whim, or a personal agenda. This is the kind of thing that goes on in dictatorships, when people suddenly disappear in the middle of the night, and no-one has the right to know if the police are holding them or not. Hogan-Howe (No! I won't respect him with a 'Sir') has obviously been taking lessons from Pinochet.

Click to rate     Rating   107

The rule should be that there is no press coverage Until a Charge is raised, Once a charge is raised (Against anybody for any reason) then it should be Mandatory to publish it. I see the current changes as they are, as an attack on our legal system by the european Legal System Rules, European rules are that people can be arrested, placed in court(sometimes without representation) and the court can proceed WITHOUT A JURY. I think these changes are the first bit of a change to introduce European state courts and operation. If this happens your legal freedom is gone, because what the european legal system does is arrest anybody that is a threat to the ruling bodies, they get found guilty and they are put away safeguarding the corrupt rulers. This may sound extreme but it goes on

Click to rate     Rating   73

There is no justification for naming someone until they have been convicted of a criminal offence. To do so is incompatable with the presumption of innocence - especially for high profile people. Secret courts are certainly unacceptable; this on the other hand is a sensible proposal.

Click to rate     Rating   70

The truth Embargo, an affront to justice and an open society!!!

Click to rate     Rating   70

This man is dangerous, stop him now. Allowing police to arrest people and not tell anyone is the end of a free country. Whatever his perverse logic, this is supremely dangerous and he needs to be sacked immediately.

Click to rate     Rating   107

What do you expect. many lives are being ruined by over zealous police and the media, out to fill air time. If someone has been arrested by the police, the public should know about it AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF A CRIME. If the press hadn't been so ruthless in their persuit of innocent people in the recent past, I would agree that they should be named, but this is not the case.

Click to rate     Rating   60

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