Editor’s comment: Why did cops sit on CCTV of violent attack?
PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:11 18 October 2017
We took a fair bit of ribbing on social media when we ran the grainy, blurred photo of Micha Birgitta’s attacker earlier this month.
The call I made was that anything that might have helped identify him, even a body shape or the bike he rode, was worth publishing – but I can certainly understand all the people who looked at that grey smudge and asked us: “Why did you bother?”
My view was that the police had given us the best they had, and that we had a duty to respect the work that had gone into obtaining it. National media pick and choose appeals based on their readability by uninterested parties, but as a community paper that has the strong potential to be read by both victims and perpetrators’ families, I need a strong reason for us not to cover an appeal in Hackney that could help bring someone justice and protect others living in our borough.
Turns out I was being too generous. Emails seen by the Gazette prove the police were, in fact, aware of much better footage that clearly showed the man’s face and was shot by the victims themselves during the attack. And while it’s great that those victims felt able to come to us directly with the footage, they shouldn’t have had to.
Issuing timely appeals through local media is such an effective way of tracking down both suspects and witnesses. I can’t count the number of times police have said appeals in local or national papers have proved vital in securing eventual convictions.
And yet pictures, video and even basic details often don’t get issued months after a crime has been committed.
The victim in this case is traumatised. What if she hadn’t had the bravery to approach us with the footage? All the while, memories have been fading, and the suspect could be long gone.