Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Cuts blamed for police secrecy

Warwickshire Police blamed the U-turn on a new policy being adopted as part of a 'strategic alliance' with West Mercia Police

A police force that has had to backtrack on a new policy of not naming people charged with crimes seemed to blame it on a multimillion-pound cost-cutting plan.

Warwickshire Police performed a U-turn less than 24 hours after claiming its rules had changed in the wake of the Leveson inquiry, after coming under fire for not naming a retired police officer charged with theft.

It reversed the decision not to reveal the identity of Paul Andrew Greaves, 54, after criticism from figures including its own deputy police crime commissioner (PCC).

On Thursday night the force said it had not intended to mislead the public but the new policy was adopted as part of a "strategic alliance" with West Mercia Police designed to save more than £30 million.

It also revealed that the policy, which would reveal those charged only shortly before a court appearance, had been in place for almost a month before it was pulled. It said in a statement posted on its website: "This issue was not about secrecy or protecting an ex-police officer. This change was part of aligning policies and practices with West Mercia Police. The strategic alliance has been formed to save over £30 million, whilst still delivering good levels of protection.

The decision not to name Greaves sparked fierce criticism from the region's deputy police and crime commissioner Eric Wood, who said he was "extremely disappointed". Freedom of expression campaigners also attacked the decision, understood to be the first such move by any police force in the country, arguing it went against the UK's principle of open justice.

Greaves has been charged with the theft of £113,000 from the former Warwickshire Police headquarters at Leek Wootton and will appear before magistrates in Leamington Spa on May 22.

The original statement from Warwickshire Police, which was later edited online, said: "Due to a change in policy, we no longer release the name of an individual on charge. Journalists may request a surname for guidance the day before the first court appearance by calling the newsdesk."

Defending the move on Twitter, Warwickshire Police acting deputy chief constable Neil Brunton said: "The policy was recently changed to align with national policy post Leverson (sic) and not because of today's outcome."

Chief executive at freedom-of-expression campaigners Index on Censorship Kirsty Hughes said: "That the police should withhold the name of a former officer who has not only been arrested but charged is of concern. In certain cases, it may be appropriate to preserve anonymity but a 'policy' of secrecy reverses the principle of open justice that we have in the UK."

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