Now Avon and Somerset Police today took the extraordinary step of
banning a national broadcaster from a press conference about the Joanna
Yeates murder investigation. They justified the ITV ban saying its
News at Ten report last night was, 'naive, unfair and irresponsible'.
They have now lifted the ban but threatened to repeat it if, they say,
reporters hamper their investigation. So what has led to this
breakdown of trust between police and media' Here's Matt Prodger.
From Madeleine McCann to Raoul Moat. From Ian Huntley to the
Ipswich murders we know so well the faces of crime in the information
SHORT TRACK OVER PICTURES
Tonight armed police.....
24/7 news has brought immediacy, intimacy and stretched the relationship
between media and police to breaking point. And so it is with the
case of Jo Yeates, the latest, high-profile murder investigation and a
spat between Avon and Somerset Police and ITV news. The cause of
it was a report broadcast last night critical of the police for failing,
after two and a half weeks, to find the killer.
Since Monday we have also taken...
In response the police barred ITV news journalists from this press
conference earlier today. Then lodged a complaint with the
broadcast regulator Ofcom for as the police put it, 'unfair, naive and
irresponsible reporting'. They said ITV's coverage would, 'hamper
the investigation'. ITV said the police action was counter
DAVID MANNION (ITV)
He should not, however, institute a ban on a legitimate news
organisation from attending a press conference. And I might add
some people might find that a bit irresponsible given that the press
conference was held to get maximum publicity for the fact that one of
Jo's socks had gone missing. Now we go out to millions of people
who might not have seen that because of this summary ban on our cameras
and our reporter.
There've already been media tensions. Last week media scrutiny of
Jo Yeates' landlord, Christopher Jefferies prompted the Attorney General
to warn newspaper editors they risked prejudicing any future trial.
Mr Jefferies was released by police. His only offences thus far
apparently being eccentricity and a love of poetry.
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann demonstrated the perils of massive
media coverage when confronted with a leaky police investigation and a
lack of leads. Overheated speculation led to British newspapers
paying libel damages to ten people so far, two of them Madeleine's
But it was the thoroughly modern death of Raoul Moat, live on TV after a
media manhunt that seemed to some a step too far. One police chief
has also complained that commanding officers on high profile cases are
now spending up to half their time dealing with the media. In the
final hours of Raoul Moat's life police frustration with photographers
was clearly evident.
The killer of Jo Yeates remains at large tonight and a needy embrace
still binds journalists and detectives. One seeks news, the other
information, and both of them need leads.
Matt Prodger. Well Ian Blair, the former Metropolitan Police
Commisioner is with us again and we are also joined by Stuart Purvis who
was chief executive of ITN until 2003 and is currently a professor of
television journalism at the University, City University in London.
Stuart Purvis first of all you saw that report last night. In your
view was there anything that was 'naive, unfair or irresponsible''
Well as I understand it the dispute between ITV news and the Avon and
Somerset Police very much centres on was the police force given a chance
to comment on the criticisms that were given actually in that report by
former policemen as much as they were by ITV journalists. So
that's a classic case of taking it to Ofcom, where I've actually worked
until quite recently handling these sorts of complaints. That I
think is the right thing for the police to have done. Clearly they
are under enormous stress and strain. Its a high profile murder
case. If they think they have been treated unfairly they should
take it to the regulator. What I don't think they should do is the
next step they took.
Banning from them. And I have to say I don't think they made the
situation any better when to try to get themselves out of a hole they'd
got themselves into they talked about this threat to do it again if the
media hampered their investigation as if a criticism whether that was
from other former policemen or from journalists was hampering their
It seems, Ian Blair, that there is just simply a frustration and
annoyance on the police side that they were being criticised in the
report last night. Is that any justification do you think for
banning media from a press conference'
I don't normally comment on ongoing investigations but in this case I
would suggest that banning a journalist is not necessarily the right
approach. But I think there's something much more important behind all
of this which is that the rhythm of 24 hour journalism in the
competitive market place that currently exists and the rhythm of a
criminal investigation are extremely different. And the demand for more
information and more information and more information is a really
difficult position for the police when they don't want to give it be...
sometimes because they don't know it and secondly because they don't
want to give it away in the first place.
Is that a legitimate criticism'
Yeah. I think first of all we had the old media. They had
24/7 news channels. I think 24/7 news online has been the really
big step forward because its enabled newspaper journalists to break
stories ahead of the morning publication and therefore they're in the
exclusives game absolutely 24 hours a day which they didn't used to be.
So there is much more pressure going on out there.
And do you think either actually journalists, new journalists and new
police are actually equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of
that constant demand, you know, for information ' legitimate demands for
Well I think the police have got used to 24/7 in terms of news.
Perhaps what they haven't got use to is 24/7 comment. I think
that's been the big change in recent years. I mean when I look
tonight at the Avon and Somerset Police statement on Facebook and I
thought, 'My God, you know, te..., five years ago would you have had a
police force issuing a statement on a social network'' Nothing
wrong with that but its a sign of the times and there are people
commenting on that statement tonight who have no idea that there is a
contempt of court or contempt process that could be taken against them.
So these are just remarkable times and I... one can understand why the
police are having trouble coping with it.
The, the, the, in the public interest is different from what the public
actually are interested in.
Oh you've always been that case. (???) I think there's a couple of
things that the police need to do. One is, I think, to separate
the man or the woman in charge of the investigation from being the
spokesman. That certainly is what the Met has done for years and
years and years and left a spokesman to deal with the press and let the
officer in charge carry on. But it also requires some
responsibility from the press. I mean in the aftermath of the 21/7
bombings I remember having to get hold of the editor of Sky to get a
journalist off the air because she was explaining what the police were
doing in terms of going into the stronghold where the terrorists were
eventually found. I mean there are things that we are now in a
position that the Moat case shows that actually you can see live police
operations on television and that does produce perhaps a requirement for
a new code somewhere (some way') about what can and cannot be done.
I mean, the thing is, of course, that the police and media need each
other desperately. I mean the police need the media for the
information to get out. But do you think there has to be a kind of
new training scheme, a new code of the way that actually they interact
with each other'
There are quite a few codes around already and not everyone knows what
code they are under at any one time.
Is that a problem them'
I think there is potenti... I mean there is... Quite
obviously there are people who are publishing by actually putting their
material out there who are actually not aware that they are subject to
any codes or that there might be legal action taken against them.
And you can understand how this has come about. I wrote a piece a
few years ago saying anybody can now be a journalist and the truth is
anybody can be a journalist depending on how you define a journalist.
But in a sense editors need to be noticing when you get this
combination, if you like, of the ideal victim and I'm afraid that's
where Jo Yeates fits with Madeleine McCann, and the apparently eccentric
suspect. Those two things together produce a real circumstance in
which the liberty of the suspect begins to become to be very endangered.
Just briefly on regulation. Do you believe that regulation is the
way to deal with it'
No, I don't. If we could regulate the press we would be in a
different world and I don't think that's going to happen either on your
show or on anybody elses.
Thank you both very much indeed.