Media Service Level Agreement

Date published: 14 January 2022 09:28

This is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which details the service South Yorkshire Police (SYP) will provide to the media.

The SLA was developed by the Corporate Communications Team, approved by SYP’s Chief Constable and introduced on Monday 20 December 2021.

The SLA is split into two parts:

Part 1 explains the service we provide, how we provide this service, the manner in which we work and the ways journalists can gather information under our SLA.

Part 2 provides a reference about different types of enquiries under our SLA.

Part 1

Our media SLA is informed by a number of sources, including:

  • College of Policing authorised professional practice (APP) for media relations
  • Other codes of practice, including those that protect victims, personal data and operationally-sensitive information
  • South Yorkshire Police’s strategic priorities, which ensure our resources are used in ways that support a policing purpose
  • British media law, including the Contempt of Court Act and Defamation Act

Our Corporate Communications Team is not resourced solely to provide a media response service, it is required to cover the spectrum of corporate communications responsibilities including community engagement, internal communications and change communications.

We have to use our resources in a way that supports a policing purpose or builds public confidence in the police. We recognise the media’s role in holding the police to account and that like us, the media works in the interest of the public, and on the basis of public interest.

 

What is a media enquiry?
An enquiry from a trained, accredited, professional journalist who is working on behalf of a recognised media outlet. As a recognised media outlet, the organisation you work for will be regulated by the relevant code of ethics for print/online or broadcast media.

How do I submit a media enquiry?
Before submitting an enquiry, please check the News and Appeals section of our website. It’s important to note that if the information you are enquiring about is already on our website, you will not receive a response, so it’s worth checking this beforehand.

The following are our main force-sponsored social media channels:

Facebook: South Yorkshire Police

Twitter: @syptweet

Instagram: @southyorkshirepolice

In addition to these, our neighbourhood teams and SYP operations keep the public updated via their local and specialist accounts. These are supported by Corporate Communications, but we do not monitor them continuously. If your enquiry relates to content posted by an officer on one of these associated social media accounts, please message the account directly in the first instance.

The main force-sponsored channels are regularly updated with items of media interest, so if we have anything to say about a police incident or a criminal case, it is likely to be on there already. If not, you can email us on media@southyorkshire.pnn.police.uk.

Will you respond to all media enquiries?
As a police force, our resources, including our Corporate Communications team, are funded by the public.

We have a duty to manage our resources in a way that supports operational policing and enhances visibility and engagement so that those in South Yorkshire are informed, reassured and have confidence in their police service.

As such, this SLA sets out what sort of enquiries we are currently able to respond to with the resources available to us. It also includes the information your enquiry should contain and what our response is likely to consist of.

If your enquiry does not meet the terms of our SLA, you will receive a courtesy response to say so, and to say why this is.

What will happen to my media enquiry?
Your media enquiry will be dealt with by the South Yorkshire Police newsdesk. This service is provided by the Corporate Communications team, as one of a number of functions managed within the department. The newsdesk is staffed between the hours of 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Once we have your enquiry, if it fits the terms of our SLA you will receive an email from one of the team to confirm that we have received it and that it is being progressed.

Where a response is required, deadlines should be reasonable and realistic. We will take genuine, urgent deadlines into consideration and will contact you if we don’t believe we can meet them. In the absence of a deadline, we will aim to provide a response within one working day.

What information should I include in my enquiry?
The police systems the Corporate Communications team uses to search for information are not predominantly set up for handling media enquiries. Incidents are listed by time and street and/or location. If you need to enquire about an incident that is not on our website, we will need to know:

  • The road or street it occurred on
  • The date and an approximate time
  • A rough description of the type of incident

Providing an incident number is preferable – these are supplied to victims of crime and everyone who reports incidents where a police response is initiated.

Further information
The media should work on the assumption that information published by the newsdesk reflects all the information available to the media. If we haven’t published it, we are not in a position to share that information at that time.

If you would like more information about something an officer or policing team has published on social media, please contact the account directly in the first instance. They are encouraged to respond to genuine questions. It may take some time for newsdesk to find out further details on these enquiries so going to that account directly is the fastest way to gather information.

The newsdesk cannot clarify or expand on comments made by officers in reports, publicly held meetings, misconduct matters or court – reporting should be taken from the meeting itself or the supporting documentation.

Live incidents
Updates are provided proactively and regularly on our website and social media when there is a policing purpose in doing so. In the first instance, please check these channels rather than contacting the Corporate Communications Team.

During live incidents, our focus will be on providing regular updates on these channels. Responding to individual media enquiries slows this process down and diverts our resources. So please monitor our website in the first instance rather than approaching the newsdesk.

If your question sits outside of the information we are posting, please do send it in and we’ll liaise with the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) or Officer in Charge (OIC) to determine whether we can provide additional information to you at that time.

 

Investigations

For incidents that have moved to an investigative stage, we will also endeavour to keep the media updated by using our website and other channels. This includes arrests, criminal charges, court appearances and other key developments. Please check our website regularly, as this is our primary channel for these updates.

If a reasonable amount of time has passed since the last update, we may be able to source an update for the media, which we may also publish on our website.

Updates about court appearances and questions about information shared in court, should be directed to the courts.

South Yorkshire Police on-call service

The team provides an on-call service for serious and critical incidents.

Outside news desk hours, any media enquiries should go through 101 in the first instance. The call handlers in our contact centre, Atlas Court, will notify the media team. If your enquiry does relate to a serious or critical incident, and requests information which is not already available on our website, the on-call communications officer will get in touch.

Alternatively, you can email your enquiry to media@southyorks.pnn.police.uk and it will be picked up during the next working day. Please note that this inbox is not always monitored out of hours.

Student / trainee journalist enquiries

Where a student enquiry meets the terms of the SLA, we will always aim to respond. In these cases, the enquiry will be prioritised against others from mainstream media outlets.

If you are a student, please familiarise yourself with this SLA before submitting your enquiry.

 

This Service Level Agreement was introduced on Monday 20 December 2021. Media consultation had already taken place; however, we welcomed feedback from journalists during the three-week grace period, which ran until Friday 7 January 2022.

The final media SLA will be implemented on Monday 17 January 2022.

 

Part 2

Abduction/ Kidnapping
In cases of abduction or kidnapping where a life is thought to be at risk, the media will be asked not to report the incident if it is likely to make the release of the hostage more difficult. Any request for a news blackout must be endorsed by a senior officer.

Amounts of cash stolen
Specific details of cash or securities stolen in raids on banks, building societies and post offices will not be confirmed. This is for security reasons. Quantities of cash will only be described as small/large, or simply 'a quantity of cash'.

Arrests and charges
We publish information about arrests and charges on our website and other channels as part of the information we routinely share about an incident or investigation. If an arrest has been made or a person has been charged, we will clearly state this in the relevant web copy. If the update is not yet on our website, journalists are advised to check directly with us as to the stage of an investigation.

Arsons and fires
Media enquiries about fires should initially be directed to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue. If the fire service confirms the incident is being investigated as a suspected arson, South Yorkshire Police may publish or provide details about the incident if there is an operational reason to do so.

Businesses
Businesses may be identified as part of police investigations, for example as part of an appeal for witnesses. In some cases, operational policing reasons may prevent businesses being identified – for example where it could impact upon an investigation. The need to protect private information may also prevent businesses being identified, e.g. in circumstances where identifying a business might indirectly identify a suspect. SYP will publish this information proactively where it supports a policing purpose.

Cautioning
We will not release the identity of anyone cautioned. If asked about a specific case, the force can confirm the fact that a person was cautioned, as along as a name is not provided in the enquiry.

Collisions and major traffic disruption

We will only provide details about road traffic collisions where there has been a fatality, life threatening / life-changing injuries or when the collision is causing major traffic disruption. In these cases, we will often issue details proactively on our channels to appeal for witnesses or to notify motorists of major disruption. Please check these channels regularly.

We will not provide details about minor injury or damage only collisions.

Complaints against the police
Information may be provided in response to media enquiries about complaints against the police. However, it may not be appropriate to publicise full details of the incident, as this may unduly affect the outcome of an investigation or internal inquiry. As a force we adhere to College of Policing’s APP guidance on these matters.

Condition checks and medical information

If the information about the condition of an injured party is available, it will be published proactively online, and included in the latest update about an incident.

We will release the most up-to-date condition information at the earliest opportunity.

Deaths and bereaved families

We will release the identity of people who have died only where there is an operational policing purpose in doing so.

We may identify people who have died in suspicious circumstances, providing it supports a policing purpose. This will be done following completion of the proper identification procedures, and consultation with the deceased’s next of kin. We will publish this information proactively, using our channels, and the media should monitor these rather than approaching the newsdesk.

We do not routinely identify people who have died in non-suspicious circumstances. This includes suspected suicides, medical episodes and road traffic collisions. If a bereaved family requests we issue the identity of their loved-one, we will do so if it will support them in their grieving process; however we will not proactively approach families on behalf of the media.

We will not respond to enquiries about non-suspicious deaths unless it relates to an update we have issued proactively. Identity queries should be directed to the coroners’ office.

Deaths in police custody
Following a death in police custody an initial statement will be prepared by us and authorised by the Gold Commander of the incident. It will normally include:

  • Confirmation that a death has occurred
  • Details of the deceased, subject to next of kin having been informed
  • Confirmation of the cause of death, subject to the agreement of the coroner, and
  • Confirmation that the matter has been referred to the IOPC.

Incidents: Lower-level
We have an appeals process to support officers investigating lower-level crimes including theft and burglary, lower-level assaults or disturbances, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. Despite being on the lower end of the criminal scale, we know how much these crimes impact victims and it is important that these offences are thoroughly investigated and information is published if it supports a policing purpose.

During every investigation of this nature, an officer considers whether an appeal is necessary to support a police investigation, prevent crime or reassure the public. This information is then provided proactively on our website.

If your enquiry relates to an incident of this nature, please check our website. If it’s not on there, please send us all the information you have and we’ll make enquiries with the relevant team for you.

Incidents: Higher-level
A higher-level incident may include (but is not limited to) a serious assault or sexual assault, murder or attempted murder, a siege, high-value theft, high-level drugs activity, high-value fraud and other matters that are typically dealt with as indictable offences.

We will usually provide details of incidents proactively on our channels, to support a policing purpose. This will typically include details of when an incident happened, where it happened, the type of incident, arrests and other actions taken, injuries if applicable and appeal information. The media are encouraged to check our channels before making enquiries.

Injuries
When releasing details of an incident involving injuries, we will try to give an indication of the level of injury if this information is available. This will be done proactively so we would encourage the media to use our channels to get this information – if we haven’t published this information, the media should work on the premise that it is not available at that time.

For the safety and privacy of the injured party, will not publish the name of the hospital they have been taken to.

 

Major incidents
‘Major incident’ is a specific categorisation of incident – not every big police incident is a major incident.

If a major incident is declared, South Yorkshire Police will be collaborating with the other emergency services and the agency with primacy will be confirmed. We will work closely with the other agencies to co-ordinate our messages to provide key messages to the public.

If urgent messages need to be delivered to the public we will prioritise the use of social media channels and SYP Alerts. Please note that during major incidents, our communication channels are used to proactively share available information and this is our priority. The media should refrain from submitting individual enquiries, as we are unlikely to have the capacity to deal with them and all available information will be provided online in the immediacy.

Media will receive notification of any press conferences directly.

 

Misconduct
The force follows the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice which can be found at www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/engagementand-communication/media-relations

South Yorkshire Police publishes information about public misconduct or special case hearings and all misconduct hearing outcomes on its website.

Details of any upcoming misconduct hearings to be held in public, including details of how to attend, are published on the force’s website.

 

Missing people
We share details with the media in some missing people cases, usually due to concerns about their welfare. Appeals are reserved for the most urgent cases. Due to the sensitivity of these cases, information provided will not be expanded upon. Updates will be provided to the media when there is specific new information that is relevant to the investigation or when the appeal is no longer active – the media should check our website and social media channels for these updates rather than approaching the newsdesk.

In order to protect the privacy of a missing person and that of their family, we will only include the first name of the missing individual in any appeals. This is on the basis that the family name of the missing individual is unlikely, in the majority of cases, to add value to the appeal. We will still publish the full name of the person if this is necessary.

The newsdesk will only respond to media enquiries about the missing people appeals it has published.

Naming a suspect
The force follows the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice regarding naming suspects.

As such, South Yorkshire Police will neither confirm or deny names put to them and will not provide guidance.

Individuals may be named proactively by South Yorkshire Police if they are wanted by police, and when the individual is no longer wanted the name will be reiterated to enable the media to identify and close the appeal. For more information about this process, please see ‘wanted people’.

 

Photographs – custody

Where available, custody images held by South Yorkshire will be provided on conviction, guilty plea or sentence subject to certain conditions being met. From Monday 20 December 2021, if requested after sentencing, we will only release an image where the offender has received a custodial sentence of 12-months or more.

An exception to this is of the individual is classed as a volume offender. This means they have 10 or more prior convictions of a similar nature. If they are a volume offender, this should be detailed on the Picture Request Form sent to Corporate Communications.

It is the media’s responsibility to check whether any reporting restrictions apply that prevent the defendant from being identified. Custody photographs remain the property of South Yorkshire Police and are supplied for single use only, to illustrate a court report. They should not be archived by media organisations. Credit should read: South Yorkshire Police.

In certain cases, where there is a substantial risk to the defendant’s life or safety, we may decline to release a custody photograph. This decision will be made by the officer leading the case.

To enable us to locate a custody image, please complete our custody image request form. This can be accessed and downloaded here.

If an individual is not remanded in custody prior to their court appearance, or if they do not receive a custodial sentence, journalists do have an opportunity to take a custody image themselves as the defendant arrives at, or leaves, court.

Photographs/video footage – investigations
Photographs or moving images relating to ongoing investigations will be provided proactively on our channels, if the officer leading the case determines this is appropriate, devoid of operational sensitivities, does not compromise an investigation or justice outcome and has a policing purpose. The media do not need to ask for this, as it is provided proactively if available, so journalists are advised to check our channels.

 

Photographs/video footage – evidence shown in court cases
Once photographs or footage are shown as evidence in court, they become the property of the Crown. In these cases, the CPS own the property but would not own the rights to edit any images or footage. Any request for footage or images would result in a discussion between ourselves and the CPS.

Please send in any requests for footage or images at the earliest opportunity, so we can ensure that this is released in a timely manner.

Public meetings or reports
If you wish to report police involvement in public meetings, please be aware that the newsdesk cannot clarify or expand on comments – reporting should be taken from the meeting itself or the supporting documentation, as this is covered by the appropriate levels of legal privilege.

Police helicopter
Air support for policing operations is provided by National Police Air Service (NPAS). If enquiring about why NPAS were spotted in a particular area, please contact NPAS in the first instance on media@npas.police.uk. If NPAS direct you back to us, in most cases they will provide you with the relevant incident number.

If your enquiry falls within the terms of our SLA, we will then provide the details available.

Social media posts by teams or officers
If you would like more information about something an officer or policing team has published on social media, contact the account holder directly. It will take some time for the newsdesk to gather additional information and we may not be in a position to respond quickly to these enquiries.

 

Statistics/FOIs
The newsdesk does not hold the force’s statistical information, however we will aim to proactively publish stats where possible. You can also submit a Freedom of Information request via our website.

Victims and witnesses
South Yorkshire Police follows codes of practice to protect victims, witnesses and their families. Surviving victims of, or witnesses to, a crime will not be identified, even if this information was provided in court, and requests to approach victims on behalf of the media will not be responded to unless the victim has waived their right to anonymity.

Wanted people
We use an appeal process to trace people who are wanted on bail or warrant in connection with a criminal matter. This information is supplied proactively, when there is a clear and legitimate policing purpose. Updates will be provided to the media when an appeal is no longer active, so that the details and related images can be removed from media channels at the earliest opportunity for legal purposes.  As this communication process is carried out proactively by the police, reporters do not need to do spot-checks for updates but should carefully monitor the police channels.