Newspaper headlines: Bernard Hogan-Howe signals shift in assault claim policy - but no 'sorry'

The difficulties of dealing with sex abuse claims are addressed in the papers, with Britain's top police officer writing on the subject in the Guardian.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe argues that the current approach espoused by the police inspectorate that "a victim should always be believed", should be toned down. Instead, he'd prefer a policy demanding that officers "proceed on the basis that the allegation is truthful" but should also "test the accuracy of the allegations and the evidence with an open mind".

Reflecting on the difficulties of dealing with historical cases involving high-profile figures, he suggests suspects should retain anonymity until they are charged, as a way of avoiding innocent people's reputations being tarnished. But he points out: "If there's only one complainant at first, the only way to find corroboration is to investigate and go where the evidence takes you."

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For some papers, this sympathy from the head of London's Metropolitan Police comes too late for those who were accused of being part of a VIP paedophile ring in the 1970s and 1980s but never charged.

"Just say sorry," demands the Sun, which describes the police raid on the home of ex-Army chief Lord Bramall as a "hounding". Its editorial rages: "He's not big enough to admit his force's grotesque blunder in unleashing 22 cops on a 92-year-old D-Day hero on the say-so of a suspected sex abuse fantasist."

Likewise, the Daily Mail complains: "Instead the Met Commissioner asks a former high court judge to review how the claims were investigated and to advise on future procedures. Isn't it sickeningly typical of Sir Bernard that the review is to be held in secret? How can he clear the air without letting in the light?"

The Daily Telegraph reckons there exists a "deeper malaise... about the competence and procedures of the police" than will be covered by the inquiry. It argues that the Policing and Crime Bill being drawn up by Home Secretary Theresa May offers "an opportunity for root-and-branch reform that must not be missed".

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Slobotomised" - the Sun's take on research suggesting that people who don't exercise in their 30s and 40s are at increased risk of developing dementia later in life
  • "Martin Clunes joins the hunt for the Cat Ripper of Croydon" - the Doc Martin star has emailed Met Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe to ask him to step up the hunt for the person behind the massacre of 35 cats in south London, reports the Mail
  • "Valentine Day's cut price vice" - sex workers are offering discounts on Valentine's Day, according to the Daily Star
  • "Village hopes to draw Valentine's charmers" - folk in the Wiltshire village of Lover are to launch a campaign to reopen a post office that used to be popular with romantics because of its distinctive postmark, but which closed in 2008, reports the Telegraph

Tipping point?

Liverpool fans have been celebrating a victory - off the pitch, at least - in the form of a U-turn by the football club's owners over a plan to hike some tickets for Anfield games to £77.

"People power," is the Telegraph's headline to the story - a reference to the 77th-minute walkout by fans in the 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

Times writer, and Liverpool fan, Tony Barrett says club owner FSG deserves credit for their climbdown. "Unlike the previous owners, it has recognised a need to right a wrong and done so... By acknowledging their mistakes and putting them right, they have also done the Barclays Premier League a great service. A standard has been set for others to aspire to."

The Guardian's Owen Gibson writes: "Whether because FSG realised the awful publicity risked permanent damage to the carefully nurtured global brand that flogs shirts and sponsorships around the world... or because a genuine tipping point has been reached remains to be seen."

However, former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher writes in the Mail that the decision made him "proud of my club once again". He praises the supporters for "standing up for fans across the country, not just themselves".

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The Sun also congratulates the fans, writing: "They highlighted a national scandal and their club, to its credit too, has listened apologised and acted." However, it says top-flight clubs must go further, and backs a £20 cap on away match tickets. "Football clubs are nothing without their supporters. Their exploitation must stop."

According to the Independent, Premier League clubs - who recently rejected the idea of a price cap - are considering offering a "cashback loyalty scheme" as an alternative.

The Daily Mirror says fans of all clubs must unite if their voices are to be heard. "Rivalries must be set aside to combat owners who, banking record TV windfalls, are still plotting to increase ticket prices... If they join together and play as one team they should be able to beat the money-grabbing fatcats who control football."

The Telegraph reminds readers of previous successful fan movements. They include Charlton Athletic supporters successfully pressuring local councillors to approve a new stadium by creating their own political party, Reading and Oxford fans successfully fending off media tycoon Robert Maxwell's proposed merger of the clubs, and West Ham fans rebelling against a bond scheme to fund ground improvements.

Paul Joyce writes in the Daily Express that: "If 10,000 Arsenal fans were to walk out of the Emirates then 'Silent' Stan Kroenke [who owns a two-thirds stake in the Gunners] might just find his voice, even hidden away on his new £500m Texas ranch."

As the Mirror points out, billionaire American Kroenke "failed to buy players during the January transfer window". For "a mere £444m", reckons the paper, he could have bought world-class stars Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Thomas Muller.

What the commentators say

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Media captionNewsweek magazine editor Matt McAllester and John Kampfner, of the Creative Industries Federation campaign group, join the BBC News Channel to review Thursday's papers.

'Mavericks'

The victories of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire state primaries are described as a "stunning, seismic expression of voter disgust with both major parties and with the failings of dysfunctional American politics in general" by the Independent.

Richard Littlejohn agrees in the Daily Mail, writing: "Donald Trump may be an incendiary circus act, but he's the incarnation of angry populist reaction against the Republican Establishment's distaste for millions of its own voters... On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders owes his ascendency to widespread revulsion at Hillary Clinton's towering sense of entitlement."

Meanwhile, the Guardian says the results were "a vote of no confidence in existing politics". It adds: "As such they connect with similar electoral revolts in Europe and elsewhere."

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Rod Liddle writes in the Sun that Messrs Trump and Sanders are enjoying the surge of support gained here by UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, for the same reasons. "Voters on both the left and the right have had enough of a self-perpetuating political elite which ignores their wishes. They've had enough of politicians who never say anything.

"They thoroughly approve of mavericks who deliver a few home truths about, say, immigration and the rise and threat of Islam. Or, on the left, about the greed of the bankers and the unequal distribution of money in this country."

For Express columnist Leo McKinstry, Mr Trump is "crass, boorish, egocentric, vulgar and grandiose", yet may be "exactly what the US needs in its next president". He writes: "Unlike the pusillanimous politicians he is willing to speak out because he recognises the mortal threat that the West faces. That is why he has struck such a chord with the American voting public.

"Ironically, despite all the abuse he has received, Trump is actually more moderate on most issues than his Republican rivals... He supports universal healthcare, opposes social security cuts and in the past has even spoken in favour of a wealth tax."

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On the Democrat side, Times columnist Tim Montgomerie writes: "Hillary, at the heart of power for three decades, is judged to have been part of the pro-immigration, pro-free trade and pro-Wall Street consensus that many blame for stagnating incomes, lost jobs and an untouchable, undeserving rich."

The situation offers plenty for the cartoonists to chuckle at. Peter Brookes, in the Times, imagines the intriguingly coiffured Mr Trump declaring: "I'm gonna blow you away, Hillary," while giving it both barrels with a couple of hairdryers.

The Independent's Dave Brown pictures Mr Trump as a Dumbo-style flying elephant, defecating all over a drunken and bedraggled Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, Adams, in the Telegraph, imagines a fortune teller quitting her trade after turning up a heap of cards marked "the fool", under portraits of all the candidates.

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