Home Secretary urges anonymity at arrest

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THE Home Secretary backs the right to anonymity for criminal suspects who have been arrested but not charged, it emerged last night.

But in a letter to the recently formed professional standards body, the College of Policing, Theresa May said she was concerned by reports that some forces have refused to name suspects who have been charged.

Mrs May said she did believe in protecting the identities of suspects at point of arrest and has asked the college, led by chief executive Alex Marshall, to draw up clearer guidance.

Her comments come after Warwickshire Police came under fire for initially refusing to name a retired police officer charged with theft.

In the letter, the Home Secretary said: “I am concerned that the refusal of some police forces to name suspects who have been charged undermines transparency in the criminal justice system and risks the possibility that witnesses and other victims might not come forward.

“I strongly believe that there should be no right to anonymity at charge apart from in extremely unusual circumstances.

“I believe there should be a right to anonymity at arrest, but I know that there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that an arrested suspect should be named.”

Warwickshire Police, who eventually revealed the identity of the retired officer, originally claimed they had altered guidance in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Addressing this issue, Mrs May wrote to the College: “I understand the Leveson Inquiry might have had an effect on the behaviour of police forces. In fact, Lord Leveson’s report did not make any substantive recommendations in relation to anonymity so I would like police forces to be aware of this fact.”

Warwickshire’s 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 by any English police force, arguing that it went against the principle of open justice.