I was involved in a discussion this morning about ASBOs, finding them on-line and publishing them on hyperlocal sites. I am no legal expert but I know that each time a web page is viewed it classed as being republished, where as printed materials have a published date and that is pretty much it.
I know I have asked for information from the police for my own site, and been given printed copies, when I said that I could scan them and put them on-line as PDF files I was told it would be better if I didn’t because of the publishing issue.
The question this morning was very definitely about getting information on ASBOs and putting all the information on-line so people
A. knew about the ASBO being in place
B. could then let the police know if they saw it being broken.
I don’t know what the answer is so I asked a couple of press officers and this is one of the responses.
This is a tricky one because current national guidance on this is under review and due to be published. ultimately it’s down to each force, but Every decision on publishing details of an Asbo must be made on a case by case basis and the risks to the subject, witnesses and community has to be assessed before deciding how to publish.I have had a case were there were real risks that if we had published a leaflet the subject could have caused harm to themselves, and the risk of breaching the asbo was low, therefore I didn’t authorise the release of the leaflet.The asbo guidance states that publicity should be localised to the community affected by the actions of the subject, with the principle being that we update those affected that action has been taken, encouraging members of the public to report breaches of the asbo within the affect affected. Its important to remember that an asbo almost always geographically based and all publicity should be proportionate and timely. This is particularly important as many asbo are issued to under 18s whose identity is normally protected under criminal law and the asbo specific recommends publicity.This is were the human right act comes in and were a number agencies have faced legal action when it has been argued that the publicity has not been proportionate when publicity has been seen outside the specific area and some time after the court case.That’s why the leafleting works, as we can demonstrate the area of distribution, timescale of distribution and clearly demonstrates that we have taken action without risking legal action.The risk with web site publication is we can’t protect the area of distribution and re can’t protect the republication of the image, so difficult to show how you prevented republication.Larger news organisations print articles as court reports and as they have larger budgets for protecting themselves from legal action are rarely challenged for publishing. They also only publish contemporaneously which offers protection. I know that locally the sentinel run asbo stories via there staff lawyers before publishing.With this in the background we are also being urged to publish more and more outcomes of cases to improve confidence in the justice system but the clear guidance needed is not forthcoming so we will continue to carefully assess each one but it’s clear the leafleting option works well as the public like to receive leaflets and we can control it.It would recommend that any editor of a local site speak to the police press office for each and every case before deciding to publish and they doing knowing they are responsible for that decision. [emphasis mine]
So over to you guys, should we publish ASBO information on hyperlocal sites? What are the risks? I’m hoping that from the discussion we can come up with some basic guidelines for publishing stuff like this, the most important one being
“It would recommend that any editor of a local site speak to the police press office for each and every case before deciding to publish and they doing knowing they are responsible for that decision.‘