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Police slam internet justice - then use it themselves

What is contempt anyway?

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Safer Neighbourhoods Chief Inspector Rick Tyson, said: "We always try to offer support in the first instance and did so in this case. However we had to take matters further due to the persistence of the women's behaviour and the needs and concerns of the local community."

Of course, with no trial in the offing, there is no suggestion that such actions would endanger prosecutions. However, the issue that many critics of ASBOs have raised is that they are very odd law: once an ASBO has been granted in respect of a specific piece of behaviour, the ASBOed needs only subsequently to cause a neighbour "alarm" or "distress" for the full weight of the ASBO to be triggered, and the individual to receive a criminal conviction.

Catherine Stephenson of the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) told us: "Placing these women’s pictures on the police website might be considered not unlike painting a target on their backs, encouraging neighbours to make complaints, or worse, outing them to anyone with a grudge against sex workers."

While the Met does wait for some form of legal sanction before publicising individual details, City Police went a step further, taking the News of the World out on patrol and allowing their photographer to snap away as the police raided two Polish women who were selling sex from their home in Aldgate, East London.

The women were subsequently not charged, but the damage was done: their pics, with faces obscured, but otherwise according to the women recognisable from other details, appeared shortly after in the News of the World.

City Police told us: "ACPO guidelines clearly state that working with the media on operations can assist in the prevention and detection of crime. It is important that our community is aware of the work the force is carrying out to respond to its concerns and reduce crime in the City."

However, publication of such pictures is quite possibly prejudicial, could possibly incite a complaint and might be damaging to the legal process should any of the individuals ever come to trial.

It may be time for the police and courts to instil some consistency when it comes to making details of possible criminals public. ®

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