Northern Ireland

PSNI reviewing policy of not releasing ‘mug shots’ to media

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said issue is on his ‘list’ to look at

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher of the Police Service of Northern Ireland says the lack of increase to danger payments is ‘frustrating’
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher. (Liam McBurney/PA)

A policy not to release so-called ‘mug shots’ of convicted offenders is under review by the PSNI.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher told the Policing Board that he wanted to understand the reasons why a different approach to custody photographs was taken in the region to other parts of the UK.

While many UK police forces routinely issue the images of people convicted of serious offences, the PSNI consistently refuses similar requests from media outlets.

Policing Board vice-chair Brendan Mullan asked Mr Boutcher about the difference in policy at the board’s monthly meeting in Belfast.

Mr Mullan suggested the PSNI stance appeared to be contrary to guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

He also questioned whether it aligned to Mr Boutcher’s publicly stated desire for the PSNI to be victim-centred.

Mr Mullan noted that victims of crime and their families had raised concerns over the failure to release the photographs.

“Will the chief constable undertake to amend current practice with regard to release of custody photos to ensure that justice is seen to be done?” he asked.

Mr Boutcher said the policy was one of the issues on his “list” to look at.

“I’ve been in policing a long time, where I’ve worked previously custody photographs - and different police forces have different rules on this, different criteria - but, by and large, convicted persons’ custody photographs will be released to the media with many forces,” he said.

“That’s not the practice here. I have looked at the policy here and I’ve raised some questions and we’re reviewing the policy.

“I’m not going to go any further than that at the moment because I want to understand the arguments that exist here around that.

“So that’s being reviewed and I’m happy to report back to you on that Brendan.”

Mr Boutcher added that he wanted the PSNI to “work specifically, consciously and in a focused way on this organisation being victim-focused”.