Matthew Steeples argues that the detainment of David Miranda again illustrates why a clearer communications strategy is required on the part of the police
David Miranda’s detainment may have been legitimate and he may indeed have been carrying information that could be considered dangerous to Britain. Equally, though, these charges could simply be, as most suspect, trumped up by the Met. The main wrong in this story, however, is the way in which our police and their press departments have handled it.
The lack of transparency about why Miranda was held under Schedule 7 of Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000 for ten hours is telling and it is frankly indicative of why wholesale reform of the police’s communications strategy is required. Their silence speaks volumes and, as Nick Cohen argued in a blog for The Spectator yesterday, this represents “a clarifying moment that reveals how far Britain has changed for the worse”.
Once again we are provided with illustration that Mr Plod has failed to accept the new era in which we live and that he is meant to police. The Internet has made news instant and when arrests are made, police press officers respond to journalists questions with vague statements rather than sharing facts. Of course they shouldn’t prejudice the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but equally they ought to issue relevant details as this would help avoid setting loose conspiracy theorists such as David Icke.
That responses to Cohen’s questioning about why David Miranda was held were met with: “We’re not saying anything else” will not surprise anyone. We saw it last year in the context of Savile and we’ll see it again. Remember Rolf Harris’ arrest? From November 2012 until April 2013, police simply referred to an “82-year old man from Bray, Berkshire” without naming the Australian star. Though there was no reason not to issue details, the police orchestrated a cover-up despite naming others arrested as part of Yewtree. Their excuse? They claimed that post-Leveson it was essential to be more cautious and careful about how so-called “celebrities” are handled.
As the former home secretary David Bunkett said earlier this year, “we are living in a climate of very nasty and angry politics”. If the police don’t urgently grasp this and don’t learn to be more communicative, they’ll deservedly find themselves on the end of this anger more often. It is time for some explanations.
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