Controversial support: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe agrees that all arrests should be carried out secretly
Britain’s most senior police chief is backing controversial rules to ensure that all arrests, including those involving high-profile figures, are carried out in secret.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has insisted that new guidelines being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers are as draconian as possible.
It follows Lord Justice Leveson’s call in his report on the media for a blanket ban on naming suspects.
Under the new rules, police will be banned from confirming suspects’ names, even when journalists know their identity.
Without confirmation, the legal risks of incorrect identification will prevent the media publishing suspects’ names.
A senior source who is close to the proposed rules and has met Andy Trotter, the ACPO officer in charge of the guidance, said Sir Bernard was driving through the changes.
The source said part of the reason for his determination to enforce the blanket restriction was growing concern that Scotland Yard was committing disproportionate resources to high-profile arrests.
He said: ‘It was put to me that ‘‘we arrest so many people that it would be ridiculous to name everybody’’.’
The claim emerged at the same time as the former Director of Public Prosecutions condemned the police plans.
Lord Macdonald QC, said: ‘There should be a presumption police will reveal names of arrested people… It’s important the public are told who police are locking up.’
Sir Bernard, who is in charge of more than 30,000 police officers, is also said to be concerned about the harm caused by publicity surrounding an arrest when the individual may later be released without charge.
The police plan for ‘secret arrests’ is opposed by the Law Commission, the Government’s own adviser on legal reform, which believes it is in the interests of justice that police release the names of everyone who is arrested, apart from exceptional cases.
Lord Macdonald said: ‘My experience as DPP showed it is common that an arrest triggers other victims to come forward.’
Yesterday it emerged that Home Secretary Theresa May had intervened in the debate by writing to all chief constables, saying she also backed plans for anonymity in arrests.
‘I believe that there should be a right to anonymity at arrest, but I know there will be circumstances in which the public interest means that an arrested suspect should be named,’ she said.
Britain’s top police chief backs law to keep arrests secret