Social and political commentary from a conservative perspective

Police have refused to issue ‘wanted’ posters of two escaped murderers, claiming that doing so might breach their human rights.

Apparently, the public have ‘no right’ to know what these men look like. Interesting, that. In these days when we cannot even rely on the police to protect us from violent criminals, the very least the police can do is enable us to protect ourselves. They should tell us what these men look like, so that we can cross the road if we see them out on the town.

Police internal guidance states that issuing posters should only be done in ‘exceptional circumstances’, such as where the person is believed to be a danger to the public. Call me a mistrustful old soul, but I would have thought that an escaped murderer should immediately be classed a ‘danger to the public’. How do the police assess this ‘danger’? Does it depend on how many murders an offender has committed, the nature of the killings, what exactly?

I understand that the murderers’ ‘rights’ are one factor in many that the police take into consideration. My question to the police is this: what more must a convicted murderer who has absconded from jail do before they deem him to have forfeited his ‘rights’?

UPDATE: The photographs have now been released. Has someone had a word with the police, I wonder.


14 Responses to “Police refuse to issue posters of escaped murderers”

  1. wayne Says:

    What about the rights of the public to know that they might be in danger? What about the rights of their victims?

    Once you commit a crime you should automatically forefeit your rights.

  2. Andrew Allison Says:

    I think you will already know my viewpoint on this one. PC gone mad! Publish the photos; catch them and get them back behind bars where they belong.

  3. Donal Blaney Says:

    I have covered this on too. I have written to every member of the Derbyshire Police Authority asking them to explain themselves. Expect silence from this supposedly democratically accountable group of placemen…

  4. Not Saussure Says:

    Sorry, but where in the Telegraph article does it say anything about escaped murderers? As far as I can make out, it’s talking about former prisoners who were released from prison on licence in the normal way and whom the Home Office should have deported. They’re wanted for Immigration Act offences, not for escaping from prison.

    The ACPOMedia Advisory Group Guidelines (pdf) on the subject seem perfectly clear; they stress, quite rightly, that

    The major consideration is whether the need to warn the public about a dangerous person outweighs the possibility of jeopardising any subsequent court hearing. Particular consideration should be given to the potential importance of identification evidence in the prosecution of the offender and the potential to undermine this, and consultation with legal staff and the CPS should be sought before any decision is made.

    and then go on to say,

    The Attorney General has said that the police have the right to warn the public through the media that an individual is dangerous and “the press has nothing to fear from publishing, in reasoned terms anything that may assist in the apprehension of a wanted person.” Broadcasters are aware that the Courts can impose severe punishments on those found guilty of contempt of court. Police forces may therefore wish to consider providing background briefings to media which could prove very helpful in the preparation of a report that accurately informs the public of a particular circumstance.

    Practice is emerging among forces to publish photographs of wanted persons beyond those who pose a serious risk to the public, and may be considered where it is necessary to protect the life and physical well-being of the subject or of those with whom he or she may come into contact or to detect or prevent serious crime or disorder.

    I can’t see anything in the ECHR (which is what complaints about the Human Rights Act are really about — the HRA doesn’t give anyone any rights they didn’t have previously; it just make it easier to enforce them) that stops the police from publishing wanted photos if they feel it necessary. The right to privacy is, of course, a qualified right; as the ACPO guidelines say (p 4),

    Article 8 of the Human Rights Act gives everyone the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and correspondence, and publication of photographs could constitute a breach of this. The article does however allow the publication in accordance with law and as is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of public health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. However, the Act requires that action taken under it is proportionate, and this is a particular consideration in respect of the nature of publication (for example the geographical reach and longevity of publication).

    The police, I think, are being overcautious here; possibly they’ve been misled by the fact that the guidelines are clearly written with suspects in mind, who are innocent until proven guilty and who may well be acquitted at the end of a trial, rather than convicted prisoners released on licence.

  5. Bel Says:

    Notsaussure, following the link, the first line of the Telegraph article reads: ‘Photographs of two convicted killers on the run from prison have finally been released …’

    Granted, this is an updated article from the one I linked to earlier. I do not recall the exact words of the earlier one, as this has now superceded that. In any case, the Telegraph has restated that they were convicted killers, and they were on the run.

  6. cityunslicker Says:

    How weak and ill-thought out has been the police behaviour here; it seems there insticts for preserving law and order have been utterly replaced by introspection upon the minutiae of legalese.

  7. Praguetory Says:

    Notsaussure – why do you have to pile in without being sure of the facts yourself?

  8. Not Saussure Says:

    Oops. My apologies. I’d somehow reached an older, related story in the Telegraph which begins
    ‘The “human rights” of foreign ex-prisoners on the run from police are being put before public safety. Detectives across the country are refusing to issue “wanted” posters for the missing criminals because they do not want to breach human rights laws,’ and I thought that was what you were talking about. Quite how I managed that, I don’t know.

    The point is still the same in the case of the two escaped murderers, though; it’s nothing to do with the HRA and there’s nothing in the ACPO guidelines that would seem to have prevented the pictures being pubished earlier — they’re clearly written with people who are as yet unconvicted in mind.

  9. Bel Says:

    That’s what I thought, NS, on reflection. Sometimes these Telegraph links take you to a different, but related story. This normally happens when they are updating a link. Strange.

  10. Mary's Friend Says:

    Sensible Policing for what its worth, but hey enough people sign this petition and you never know. It might help to reject all this Political Correctness nonsensensesesne that led to this rediculous decision not to publish that was reversed when pressure was applied by media and blogs.

  11. Praguetory Says:

    The best article I’ve seen was on this is London (I link at my place). The Derbyshire police force listed four reasons for not publishing the pictures. When people give four reasons it’s normally because they don’t have one good one.

  12. Jeremy Jacobs Says:

    Wayne said “Once you commit a crime you should automatically forefeit your rights”.

    I presume this doesn’t apply to those of us who have “trois points” on their driving licence.

  13. Bel Says:

    Thanks PT, I’ll go check it out.

  14. Flying Rodent Says:

    This has nothing to do with human rights law and everything to do with the police trying to palm off their problems onto the government.

    If you’ve ever worked with the police, or any other large beurocracy, this won’t come as a surprise.

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