A plan by police chiefs to introduce a new system of secret arrests has been thrown into doubt after Theresa May intervened to insist forces should confirm to the media the names of people who are not charged.
Proposals by the Association of Chief Police Officers, (Acpo) sought to end the naming of suspects on arrest, unless there were exceptional circumstances.
This would effectively end the practice whereby police forces would give journalists an off the record steer that a name was correct if it was put to them.
The Home Secretary had previously indicated her support for the move, providing there was no change to the system of naming people once they had been charged.
But now in an unexpected intervention, Mrs May has said she supports the idea of police forces confirming when the media puts correct names to them.
The proposals are due to go before the College of Policing on Monday to be discussed and ratified.
But writing in The Sun newspaper Mrs May indicated her concern that the plans were going too far.
She wrote: “Where the Press have already identified the suspect and asked for confirmation from police the police should confirm it. There should be a presumption of transparency throughout the system.”
Her comments come after the Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his concern over the situation, insisting there was “no simple answer”.
Speaking during a trip to the United States he said there was a “difficult balance” between publicising the arrests and respecting the privacy of suspects.
One of the main arguments against secret arrests has been the claims that the publicity helps encourage victims to come forward with evidence.
Earlier this month police confirmed that publicity surrounding the arrest of entertainer Stuart Hall on allegations of sexual assault encouraged more of his victims to come forward and speak out.
Last month Hall pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault against girls as young as nine.
Sources at Acpo said chief officers had no intention of “getting into a spat” with the Home Secretary but would not be redrafting the proposals in light of her comments.
The difference of opinion raises the prospect that a policy could be introduced across Britain’s 43 forces that is at odds with the Home Secretary’s views.
A Home Office spokesman said: “It is there in black and white what the Home Secretary thinks. We will not be adding to that at this stage.”
Secret arrest plans in disarray