Filkin report: Police warned over press links

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Media captionElizabeth Filkin warned against ''the close relationship" between Met police and journalists

The "close relationship" between parts of Scotland Yard and the media has caused "serious harm", a report says.

The report by Elizabeth Filkin says information had previously been given "inappropriately".

This had "compromised" the way police and the media scrutinised each other's activities, it added.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe said new rules for officers about relationships with journalists would be implemented.

But former Daily Mirror crime reporter Jeff Edwards said the inquiry appeared to "have taken a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

'Watch out'

Ms Filkin, the former parliamentary commissioner for standards, calls for a new approach based on "more extensive, open and impartial" provision of information to the public.

Her report tells officers to "watch out" for "late-night carousing, long sessions, yet another bottle of wine at lunch - these are all long-standing media tactics to get you to spill the beans. Avoid."

It added: "Mixing the media with alcohol is not banned but should be an uncommon event," her report said, adding that drinking with officers "may be seen as inappropriate hospitality".

Officers will be urged to keep a note of any conversation they have with journalists, the report said.

Ms Filkin, also advises police to "watch out" for reporters "flirting" which she said is designed to get officers to drop their defences.

She said there were "some very serious issues" relating to contact between journalists and police which had "eroded trust from the public".

Speaking at the launch of the report, Mr Hogan-Howe said: "There should be no more secret conversations. There should be no more improper contact and by that what I mean is between the police and the media - that which is of a selfish, rather than a public interest."

"Meetings will no longer be enhanced by hospitality and alcohol. It doesn't mean to say there will never be an occasion when we take hospitality with journalists, but on the whole, we wouldn't expect to see it."

'Greater openness'

The Filkin Report was ordered by police and Home Secretary Theresa May after a phone-hacking scandal surrounding the News of the World uncovered evidence suggesting improper ties between officers and the media. Dame Elizabeth was asked to investigate following allegations that reporters paid officers for information.

The previous Met Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, quit the Met in July amid the phone-hacking scandal.

He was criticised for his links to former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was arrested in July 2011 on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. Mr Wallis had also been working as a public relations consultant for Champneys spa when Sir Paul recuperated there, although the Met said Sir Paul had been unaware of this. A subsequent inquiry cleared Sir Paul of all wrongdoing.

The Filkin Report only refers to the Met but last year the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) published guidance for all police forces in England and Wales.

It recommended senior police officers:

  • Ensure a record is made of any interviews with the media
  • Record all meetings with journalists, including purpose, time, and place
  • Should be accompanied by press officers
  • Should record any hospitality received from the media

In her report Ms Filkin added: "I recommend greater openness in providing information to the public, much of which will be through the media.

"The two new roles which I suggest - public information and integrity champions - will drive the change, making media contact permissible but not unconditional. Unequivocal and sustained leadership must be given."

Among other key recommendations were that "confidential briefings should be the exception" and "all contact should be available for audit".

Ms Filkin also highlighted criticism of senior officers, saying the Met "has not communicated effectively enough with Londoners".

She added: "I am concerned by the extent to which police officers and staff feel that some of their senior leaders abide by a different set of rules.

"There has been wide variation in how the senior team interpreted policy on dealing with the media and receiving gifts and hospitality.

"There has been no clear standard set by the senior team for police officers and staff to use as a guide for their own behaviour and in some instances the standards set have been poor and have led to consequent damage."

Mr Edwards, who is also president of the Crime Reporters Association, said police officers need not be "chaperoned" and he added: "I would like to correct the view that all unauthorised contact is bad.

"I can think of at least five major criminal investigations where, as a tabloid reporter, I came across information and passed it on to a senior police officer.

"One was an enormous criminal conspiracy and I met an officer and, yes we shared a beer, but he acted and headed off a very serious criminal conspiracy."

Mr Edwards, who is now an associate lecturer at the National Police Leadership College, said: "I resent the implied suggestion that all unauthorised contact between police and media is automatically unethical, elicit, shady or corrupt."

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