April 13, 2013
Trawling the Shallows
"The Internet has correctly been concerned at what has been perceived as the loss of a ‘right’. The proposals by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to refuse to release the names of people they arrest in the course of criminal investigations. The proposal has been condemned as secret justice and produced angry responses from all who claim to support ‘freedom of speech’. The ‘Leveson effect’ has duly shouldered the mantle of blame.
It seems to have escaped their notice that the ‘right’ to know the name of those arrested has never existed. 20 odd years ago, the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex p Westminster Press Ltd  [The Times, 18 December 1991] ruled that the media has no automatic right to be informed by the police of the name of a person who is under investigation or who has been charged by a criminal offence.
It has, of course, been the case for many years that the Police choose to ignore the fact that they don’t have to give names to the media – it can be useful to them to do so for many reasons. It is noticeable that in the current furore, the Sun, from atop their high moral horse, have listed a series of sexual crimes against children which came to light after arrests were made public. It quotes one of 80 victims to call the police after “Black Cab” rapist Jon Worboys (pictured above) was arrested. He was jailed in 2009.
The 24-year-old student said: “This will lead to guilty men walking free. I only knew about Worboy’s arrest because I saw his name in the paper. How am I and hundreds of others supposed to know police are looking into an individual if it is not publicised?”[eh, when he is jailed?]
Other cases cited by The Sun include a swimming coach jailed in 2006 for sexually abusing children as young as five. It notes that four victims came forward after reading of arrests in their local papers. [ditto]
This is appealing to the current paedo-panic where ‘trawling’, as it is known, can have a dramatic effect on a subsequent charge – using the ‘similar allegations’ method of corroborating evidence. Advertising the name of an arrestee, particularly if well known or in a previously pivotal position in a child’s life, can bring forward other ‘children’, even when now middle aged, to give evidence. Or, as Peter Watt of the NSPCC told The Sun: ‘When a suspect in a child abuse case is named it gives more victims the confidence to speak out and helps ensure that justice is done.’" [or, opportunity for a little attention-seeking and a quick buck]