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Publicity and the Criminal Justice System


Protocol for working together: Chief Police Officers, Chief Crown Prosecutors and the Media

1. Media Relations; Terms of Reference - Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and The Media

  1. This Protocol has been created in consultation with the key agencies involved, that is ACPO, CPS, the Attorney General's Office and senior representatives from the media. Our aim is to ensure greater openness in the reporting of criminal proceedings.
  2. Our overriding objective is to provide an open and accountable prosecution process, by ensuring the media have access to all relevant material wherever possible, and at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
  3. Everything that follows is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees the right to impart and receive information. However we shall strive to interpret these provisions as positively as possible in accordance with the overriding objective in paragraph 1.2.
  4. CPS policy towards victims and witnesses gives a commitment to treat them with respect and sensitivity and to take all practicable steps to help them through the often difficult experience of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. In the interests of the administration of justice, the views of victims, witnesses and other people directly affected by a case, such as family members, will be given particular consideration when making any decision to reveal or to provide prosecution material to the media. Inevitably this will lead to decisions being made in the context of the individual circumstances of each case.
  5. A key objective is to achieve effective mutual cooperation. Criminal justice agencies and the media have different roles to fulfil. The primary function of the police is to protect public safety. The role of CPS is to prosecute appropriate cases firmly and fairly. The media's task is to provide the public with information they have a right to, swiftly and comprehensively.
  6. With this in mind a number of annexes are attached:
    • Annex A - A list of CPS HQ Press Office contacts for national media enquiries and CPS Area Communications Managers' contact details for regional media enquiries.
    • Annex B - A list of police contacts
  7. ACPO and CPS appreciate the need for speedy decisions about releasing material. Expediting media access to information about prosecutions is an important element of the CPS role. HQ Press Officers and Communications Managers are available in most Areas and they will usually be the first point of contact in post-conviction matters (Annex A).
  8. For pre-trial issues the police will usually be the appropriate contact point. Local arrangements are generally well established. Otherwise see Annex B for additional police contacts.

2. Media Access to Prosecution Materials

  1. The aim of the CPS is to ensure that the principle of open justice is maintained - that justice is done and seen to be done - while at the same time balancing the rights of defendants to a fair trial with any likely consequences for victims or their families and witnesses occasioned by the release of prosecution material to the media.
  2. Prosecution material which has been relied upon by the Crown in court and which should normally be released to the media, includes:
    • Maps/photographs (including custody photos of defendants)/diagrams and other documents produced in court;
    • Videos showing scenes of crime as recorded by police after the event;
    • Videos of property seized (e.g. weapons, clothing as shown to jury in court, drug hauls or stolen goods);
    • Sections of transcripts of interviews/statements as read out (and therefore reportable, subject to any orders) in court;
    • Videos or photographs showing reconstructions of the crime;
    • CCTV footage of the defendant, subject to any copyright issues.
  3. Prosecution material which may be released after consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service in consultation with the police and relevant victims, witnesses and family members includes:
    • CCTV footage or photographs showing the defendant and victim, or the victim alone, that has been viewed by jury and public in court, subject to any copyright issues;
    • Video and audio tapes of police interviews with defendants, victims and witnesses;
    • Victim and witness statements.
  4. Where a guilty plea is accepted and the case does not proceed to trial, then all the foregoing principles apply. But to ensure that only material informing the decision of the court is published, material released to the media must reflect the prosecution case and must have been read out, or shown in open court, or placed before the sentencing judge.

3. Appealing decisions

  1. Any dispute arising between the Criminal Justice agencies and the media concerning the disclosure of material or the principles or workings of this Protocol, will be referred for review to the CPS Head of Strategic Communications. Consideration will be given to all factors including the stated aims of this protocol to achieve greater openness in reporting criminal proceedings. The media and the criminal justice agencies will have the opportunity to make appropriate representations before a final decision is taken regarding disclosure of material and any applicable terms.
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