May backed over suspect anonymity

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THE retired teacher wrongly arrested over the murder of Joanna Yeates said yesterday that he backs Home Secretary Theresa May’s stance on not naming suspects until they are charged.

Chris Jefferies, who was awarded ‘’substantial’’ undisclosed libel damages from eight newspapers in 2011 after a series of allegations were made against him over the Bristol murder, said he thought Mrs May’s suggestions were “extremely sensible”.

The Home Secretary has asked the recently formed professional standards body, the College of Policing, to draw up clearer guidance after expressing concern that some forces have refused to name suspects who have been charged.

Mr Jefferies said that, like Mrs May, he agreed that there are exceptional circumstances where it would be appropriate for those who have been arrested to be named, such as in child abuse cases where it might encourage other victims to come forward.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a question of balancing the right of the individual to privacy and the right of the individual to a reputation, and on the other hand the right of the public to know. But I’m very much of the opinion that, unless there are exceptional circumstances which require that somebody is named at the time of arrest, then the name of the person who has been arrested should not be given out, and the name should be released only at the point when somebody is charged.”

Writing in The Sun yesterday, Mrs May said she had been “disturbed” by reports of police forces refusing to name suspects who have been charged, citing the example of Warwickshire Police who recently came under fire for initially refusing to name a retired police officer charged with theft.

The names of people who have been charged should be made public, she wrote, except if they are a minor or if a child could be identified due their name being known. “There is a case for keeping secret the names of those who are arrested,” she wrote. “The evidence for arrest is often no more than an officer’s suspicion.”

But the Home Secretary added that where the press have already correctly identified the suspect, police should confirm it.

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