Arrested suspect naming open for discussion - Keir Starmer

DPP Keir Starmer Keir Starmer says flexibility should apply to the naming of suspects

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The director of public prosecutions says he wants "wriggle room" to ask police to name some suspects who have been arrested, despite new guidelines that they normally would not be named.

Keir Starmer told MPs he would expect to discuss with the police whether it would be "helpful to name on arrest".

Under the England and Wales guidelines, police will normally refuse to release the identities of people arrested.

Names will normally be released once a suspect is charged.

The College of Policing, the newly formed professional standards body for England and Wales, published the new protocol on Monday.

It states that names should only be released in circumstances including a "threat to life, the prevention or detection of crime or a matter of public interest and confidence".

But Mr Starmer told the justice select committee on Tuesday: "I'm for a blanket rule on charge; I'm not for a blanket rule on arrest."

He said he "would expect to have a discussion with police" about naming an arrested suspect when there was not enough evidence to charge them, but where there might be further allegations which had not yet been passed to police.

Case by case

Mr Starmer said: "If it's possible to bring a single charge then it may well be we should press on and make a charging decision, and if others come forward then all well and good, it's all in the public domain."

Start Quote

We need to work with the police to reduce the period between arrest and charge so we can get to a public statement sooner rather than later”

End Quote Keir Starmer Director of Public Prosecutions

He added: "If there was a case there where we felt it would be helpful to name on arrest then I would want the wriggle room to be able to do that."

The guidance says that at the point of charge, forces can release the name, address, occupation and charge details of the suspect, but must consult the Crown Prosecution Service, which covers England and Wales, if they want to withhold the name.

The protocol says: "Decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis but, save in clearly identified circumstances, or where legal restrictions apply, the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released by police forces to the press or the public."

It also says that police will not confirm the identities of arrested suspects when asked by journalists.

Recently Home Secretary Theresa May said she believed in protecting the identities of arrested suspects, unless it was in the "public interest" to name them.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron has said there is a "difficult balance" between publicising arrests and respecting privacy.

Mr Starmer, who completes his posting in October, said the length of time between arrest and charge in some cases was fuelling the debate.

"It's where people are arrested and then on bail for some time that it becomes increasingly difficult.

"I'm absolutely clear about what happens on charge, on my part we need to work with the police to reduce the period between arrest and charge so we can get to a public statement sooner rather than later."

In Scotland, general information on arrested suspects can be released, such as gender and age, but names are only made public by the police when they appear in court.

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