YESTERDAY The Argus revealed how Sussex Police have been keeping the public in the dark about hundreds of crimes.

We revealed 787 crimes which were committed in a fortnight in March – yet police only told the public about two of them at the time. The crimes include rapes, robberies, kidnapping, possession of firearms and other weapons, drugs trafficking and threats to kill – most of which remain unsolved.

At least 140 assaults were reported and police officers were attacked on five occasions, a company director was suspected of fraud and scores of burglaries in figures obtained by The Argus.

The force faced criticism for failing to be transparent or informing the public. This is despite spending £1.2 million on communications and public relations – the highest expenditures in the country.

None of the serious crimes were mentioned in releases issued by the force’s press office at the time, or in conversations with Argus reporters when they asked for a run down of serious and breaking incidents on those days.

Even now, months later, Sussex Police’s freedom of information department and press office are still refusing to give the public more detailed information about these offences. The Argus will continue to request this information is made available to the public.

Today chief superintendent Nev Kemp, who is responsible for policing in the Brighton and Hove division, responded to the report in an interview with senior reporter Flora Thompson. He was joined by Katie Perkin, head of corporate communications.

Q How does Sussex Police decide whether to hold back or release information on a crime which has been committed?

CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT NEV KEMP: “Proactively. We look at a range of things when we do this and protecting the public is a priority. We think about if it will increase our chances of catching criminals. We don’t routinely pump information out – some things are sensitive.

“We are encouraging staff to be more open with the public and journalists. Most members of the force have Twitter accounts where they speak openly and interact with the public. We don’t want to compromise the trust people place in us.

“Rather than speaking to one officer who may know a little bit you can get an overview of the incident from the media relations team which will make sure the public get all the right information.”

KATIE PERKIN, HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS: “It’s important to understand where we are coming from. Our job in the media team is to support operational policing. Our primary aim is protecting vulnerable people and catching criminals. My team works collaboratively with officers and also to see what they can do to help the press. We rarely hold things back. If we do it would be because it would have a detrimental impact on a victim or an operation.

“We have to be considerate of victims. Otherwise people might be worried about reporting a crime. We work with victims and make it clear to them what would happen if something was publicised and we would never compromise their anonymity.

"We encourage officers to speak to the press if they feel comfortable doing so – we are very positive about it and set up interviews. But the media should also remember that at certain times officers will be in the middle of an investigation and that is their priority.

“One way we help warn the public is by an activity called super cocooning. For example if there is a burglary officers will contact residents to make them aware, offer advice and seek information and we will carry door-to-door enquiries.”

Q Who in the force decides which crimes the public are made aware of?

KP: “There is a conversation between an officer on the case and someone on the media team. We go on all the evidence and consider the victim. A great deal of thought goes into it.”

NK: “All our aims are clear – all the officers know them. It is about reducing offending, catching the criminal, protecting the public and increasing trust and confidence.

“We weigh up the sensitivity of the victim and the risk to the public. For example, if there is a rape with an ongoing risk to the public, it’s really important we are doing all we can to reduce that risk. If needed we can carry out fast enquiries without compromising public safety or the victim.”

Q When might working with the media to get messages out to the public be important?

NK: “With the bus crash this week we were helpful in getting reporters a bit more information and photographers were given more access so they could get the news out there.”

KP: “For example there was a kidnapping incident recently in which we were extremely grateful in the way The Argus handled it as it was a really sensitive issue. We worked together and we value and appreciate the relationship we have with the press.

“Media relations form part of the force’s openness and transparency which is why we record all the contact we have with the media in case there is a dispute or an enquiry. We welcome feedback on our practices and we know the press has a duty to hold us to account and ask tough questions.”

Q Why did officers refuse to tell reporters basic details about breaking news incidents in March, as mentioned in yesterday’s report?

KP: “We welcomed the feedback and did something proactive. We carried out training with the force control inspectors and this is something we will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. It has given them the skills and the confidence to deal with out-of-hours press enquiries. We are really pleased with the improvements we have seen. If something is going wrong we hold up our hands.”

Q Why were details of serious crimes reported in those two weeks, as revealed in The Argus’ freedom of information request and detailed in the report yesterday, not released at the time and why were reporters not briefed?

KP: “About 30% of the crimes listed were low level crime – such as thefts of handbags and phones being stolen. If we see a spike in a certain area we might focus on that. For example, in a rape case, if the two people are known to each other we don’t need to put out an appeal so that isn’t something we would report.

“We are required to report all our crime statistics to the Home Office so the details of crimes are all available – the public can look them up online on”

NK: “Actually bag thefts are really important – this is not low level crime and there can be vulnerable victims. If we think there is an increase in this or a chance of catching somebody we will consider what is the most effective option. If we think publicity will help us catch the offender we will put something out or if there is an on-going risk to the public.

“If we are releasing a lot of information on the day of the incident it might affect the ongoing investigation and we may not have established all the circumstances. It wouldn’t further our aim of protecting the public and increasing our chances of catching somebody and could cause more concern.

“Some of these crimes may have been reported as one thing but, on investigation, may turn out to be something else altogether. For example one of the kidnappings mentioned in the report turned out to be someone claiming a taxi driver had kidnapped someone after an attempt to make off without payment. It may say on the statistics this is still unsolved but that may mean it has not yet been filed.

“There has been a downturn in crime. We are focusing on targeting prolific offenders – we know who they are.”

Q Why is The Argus still unable to get more detail on those crimes on behalf of the public after repeated requests?

KP: “This isn’t something the media team is going to provide – its priority is supporting operational policing.

“In my professional opinion answering this does not warrant the resources, or public money it is going to take to provide this information. We don’t believe releasing details about those crimes will improve public safety. I would rather my team focus on helping to put together missing people appeals and working with officers.”

NK: “Sometimes if we put everything out there it could damage the strength of that evidence. We have to be really careful. The public will be able to hear about the crime when it comes to court if it is solved.”

Q Are any of these decisions made because of a lack of staffing or finances?

KP: “No. It is driven by operational policing.”

Q Are all reports of crime perceived as bad news by the police?

KP: “Reports of crimes can be really helpful. There was a fantastic piece in The Argus about a carer who stole from vulnerable people. I was delighted when I saw that.

“We also saw how the effect of press reports on Jimmy Savile worked – it gave victims the confidence in coming forward.”


Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp is the police commander of Brighton and Hove with overall accountability for all the policing in the division. He works with the public and private and voluntary sectors to enforce community safety and catch offenders within a £25 million budget, according to the Sussex Police website.

He has worked for Sussex Police for 20 years, was born and brought up in Brighton and Hove and has served as a sergeant, inspector and chief inspector and previously as a PC in East and West Sussex.

He has been in his current post since April 2013, overseeing a team of officers, staff, volunteers and cadets.

Katie Perkin, the head of corporate communications for Sussex Police, manages a team of 27 communications and public relations staff in a £1.2 million budget. Ms Perkin joined Sussex Police about a year ago, originally as deputy head of corporate communications before assuming her current role. Previously she worked as a communications manager for energy and property developer the Banks Group in Durham.