The arrest is the act of placing a person in custody or under restraint for disobeying the law. Such a person can be held for clarifying affiliation with a crime, for responding to a criminal accusation, or for preventing them to commit another crime, if such reasonable doubt exists. The arrest is a part of, or sometimes even precedes, the pre-trial proceedings. At this stage the investigation is still underway, disclosure of information is as a rule restricted for avoiding compromising the case, and the arrested person is far from being considered a “proven” perpetrator.

At that point, criminal justice authorities do not usually name the arrested persons unless they are public figures or have been previously announced wanted. The media should make sure the released information does not suggest the arrested person’s guilt. The release of images suggesting guilt such as handcuffs and bars should also be avoided.

Announcing an arrest

If announcing an arrest is necessary, you should
make sure the arrested person is not identifiable.

Arrests are often announced by statements or press conferences, sometimes directly at the scene of the arrest. It is often not possible to have these announcements made by the media relations official of your department, although it is a good practice if this is done at least in high-profile cases. If you have to make such an announcement, here are the most important rules you need to consider.

The names of the arrested persons should not be released, unless for evident purposes, for example when a wanted person or a prominent figure was arrested. Authorities can inform the public that an arrest was made and can also indicate the age, gender and place of residence of the arrested person, the type of offence they are arrested for, and if the person was placed in custody, or released under bail or with no further action. Any of these circumstances should be generalised or even omitted if in combination with the rest they would allow for the person to be identified.

Instead of “a man, 27, living in Castelmoron-d’Albret” it is advisable to formulate the announcement as “a man in his 20s living in a village in Gironde.” Castelmoron-d’Albret is a village of 50 inhabitants in the area of Gironde in France and citing the age of the person can, with high certainty, lead to his identification in the community. In smaller communities, people know more about each other’s lives and it is difficult to predict whether the accumulated information, no matter how limited it is, would be sufficient for identification.

Two arrested on suspicion of causing another person’s death in Karlstad

Published: 2020-01-31 08:37:33

On Saturday, December 18, 2021, a man, 27, living in Castelmoron-d’Albret, was arrested in relation to a series of robberies.

The media will often ask you to confirm an arrest. It is essential that you make sure they identify clearly the crime they are interested in, for example, by mentioning the date and place. If the media approach you with a request to confirm the identity of the arrested person, you should not comment making sure that the journalists will not misinterpret your refusal as a confirmation. It is also essential to avoid mentioning the arrested person’s features such as ethnic group, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, or previous convictions, as these can often lead to prejudiced comments.

Remember that inviting the media to take pictures of an arrested person has been repeatedly recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as a violation of the right to privacy.

To media

When the police or another law enforcement authority makes an arrest, they would not normally announce it or disclose the arrested person’s name. If you learned about it or were there when it happened you should make sure to observe the following rules so that your coverage does not violate the presumption of innocence or affect anyone else’s private life.

Reporting on the arrest of a prominent figure

Prominent figures can be named if they are
public officials or serve as role models.

The lives of famous people are usually more publicly exposed due to their responsibility to serve as role models or as a consequence of their public position. When such a person is arrested it is admissible to disclose their identity if this serves the public interest or would have a preventive effect on society (for example, in cases of misuse of public funds, or drunk driving). You should distinguish between reporting details concerning ‘famous’ and ‘ordinary’ people, always considering the consequences such information can have on their lives (no matter what information about them is already publicly known).

Due to the suspect’s public position, there is a justified public interest in the disclosure of his identity in relation to the suspicion of these crimes. This would most likely not have been the case if the suspect would not have been a public official.

Drunk driving Flemish politician resigns amid accusations of assisting an escort commit fraud

Van Kloppmann on Thursday stepped down from his position as president of the Flemish parliament after reports surfaced in local media linking him to a professional escort whom he allegedly helped obtained a fraudulent bankruptcy payout. Van Kloppmanns resignation comes only a week after he was caught in the eye of the storm after being caught driving under the influence. While Van Kloppmann said that his decision to resign was “necessary”, he denies the accusations made against him.

Videos or images of an arrest

Showing an arrested person with means of restraint suggests guilt.

Avoid publishing images and videos of arrested persons restrained by handcuffs or leg irons, placed behind bars, glass boxes or in police cars as such images are strong illustrations implying guilt.

It is not advisable also to publish images of people in emotional situations.

Suspect in murder of nine-year-old in northern Spain was interviewed 16 times while on parole

The footage attached to the article depicts the accused man being escorted to a police car by three police officers.

The footage of the man, deprived of liberty, strongly implies guilt. This is further strengthened by references to his criminal record.

Criminal behaviour as a role model

The media have the power to amplify the significance of criminal acts
and they should consider this risk when covering arrests.

Mind that your coverage of a crime or an arrest might turn the suspects into role models. In some cases, the live broadcast of an arrest can lead to more negative than positive consequences. The arrest of a person suspected of spreading radical ideologies might result in increased support for such ideologies.

Although the covering of these occurrences is necessary, and even though the article may have been properly written, it is necessary to underline that this form of reporting should be done with caution.

Describing the manifest as a handbook for terrorists and underlining its accessibility may increase the public interest in the extremist ideology and indirectly generate support for the cause of the extremist.

Säpo examines terrorist manifesto

A handbook for terrorists. This is how [name]’s 1500 pages long manifesto can be summarized. The document was sent out to well-known right-wing extremists just hours before the explosion and contains detailed instructions on how terrorism can be spread in Sweden. Säpo will now make a “thorough analysis of the manifesto”.
The manifesto has for a few months now been available for purchase on several major Swedish book sites.