Suffolk Police’s seizure of a reporter’s mobile phone records are a concern for every journalist in the country. It took the East Anglian Daily Times seven months to extract details of the records obtained by the police.
It all began when reporter Mark Bulstrode asked the police about the reopening of an historic investigation that was not public knowledge. The paper agreed to a police request not to publish the story.
Almost as worrying as the actual seizing of the records is the way the police attempted to cover-up afterwards. When a request was made by Bulstrode under the Freedom of Information Act, Suffolk Police refused to say whether or not they held the records.
It was only after the request was resubmitted, and the force told them that the Information Commissioner had been contacted, that the documents were released â€” seven months after the initial request.
The full story is on the EADT’s website. The paper’s editor, Terry Hunt, says he will be making a formal complain to the Chief Constable.
The police have the right to obtain phone records if they believe a offence has been committed. They say the action was not directed at the EADT but at establishing where any officer was unlawfully disclosing information. An officer has since been given “words of advice” so it would seem there was no crime.
It looks as if they were going on a fishing trip. Whatever the background, this affair can only weaken trust between the police force and the regional morning newspaper (and other journalists in the area). And that is not in the interests of people living in Suffolk who pay for the police through their council tax. I am one of them and my concern is that the police should fight crime and actually do something when local youths are creating a disturbance on the corner on Saturday night.