Web Limit on Police 'naming and shaming' of Criminals
Police forces that “name and shame” criminals must remove the details from websites after a month, new rules say.
Criminals’ details such as name, age, where they are from and their offence, should be published routinely on police websites, the Ministry of Justice said.
But data protection and human rights laws mean there are restrictions on what is published, how it is made public and for how long.
Officers will also need a specific reason to publish photographs.
The rules state there should be a “presumption” in favour of making information from crown and magistrates’ courts public.
The guidance says police and town halls should take into account the impact on the offenders’ family of such material and should also consider whether it is “proportionate” to make the verdicts and sentences public.
It also states they should examine whether publishing personal details could have an “unjustifiably adverse effect” on the criminal.
It is vital people know that criminals will not escape the consequences of their crimes
Jack Straw, Justice Secretary
Concerns over the long-term “adverse consequences” for criminals may mean that information is only published on websites linked to the area where the crime was committed.
Websites can also consider saying just that “someone” has been convicted of a crime without revealing the specific details of who, if that is enough to reassure the public.
And the guidance says forces can hand out leaflets or make information available at public meetings instead of putting it on the internet.
“Online publicity needs to be justified, and will not usually be appropriate for minor offences/sentences or for first time offenders,” the document states.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: “Individual crimes often get a lot of media coverage and news can spread across communities quickly that a crime has been committed.
“However, the news that someone has been caught, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced does not travel as far.
“This guidance explains, once and for all, that authorities can publish the details of crimes and the punishments criminals have received, and that the government actively encourages them to do so.
“It is vital people know that criminals will not escape the consequences of their crimes.”