U.K. Official Outlines New Draft Rules for Interaction of Media and Police

British Metropolitan Police Group - H 2011
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British Metropolitan Police Group - H 2011

Home Secretary Theresa May says "gifts and hospitality," including most meals and drinks, could be considered unacceptable in the future following the phone hacking scandal.

LONDON - U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May, who in her role oversees the police, on Tuesday outlined stricter draft rules for the interaction of police and media.

Based on the principle of "blanket non-acceptability" of gifts, the rules are being developed after the phone hacking scandal and amid criticism of the police's close relationship with journalists at the News International U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which has been at the center of the scandal.

Appearing at the Leveson Inquiry, which has probed the relations of politics, police and the public with the media, May said that "gifts and hospitality," including most meals and drinks, could be considered unacceptable for members of the police force in the future except for small, trivial cases.

She emphasized that given different sets of guidance for the interaction of police representatives with journalists, one key goal of the draft rules are consistent standards and guidance.

"Police will speak to journalists, and journalists will speak to the police…but this brings a clearer framework for police officers," May said in a Webcast session.

The Leveson Inquiry debate about the new rules also highlighted that all interactions between police officers and journalists must be noted and kept track of in the future. May said that for a "vast majority" of such interactions, it would suffice to write down the general topic of the discussion.

Also on Tuesday, the Crown Prosecution Service said that it has decided that Guardian journalist Amelia Hill and a London police officer will not face charges over allegations of a news leak about Scotland Yard's phone hacking probe. The officer was alleged to have passed confidential information about hacking cases to the reporter.

"All the evidence has now carefully been considered and I have decided that neither the police officer nor the journalist should face a prosecution," said Alison Levitt, principal legal advisor to the director of public prosecutions, in a statement. "I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence against either suspect to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the common law offense of misconduct in a public office or conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office."

She added: "There is no evidence that the police officer was paid any money for the information he provided. Moreover, the information disclosed by the police officer, although confidential, was not highly sensitive. It did not expose anyone to a risk of injury or death. It did not compromise the investigation."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

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