Last updated: May 30, 2012 12:00 pm

Police face new guidelines on hospitality

The UK police could face a ban on accepting hospitality and gifts under new guidelines drawn up by police chiefs, Theresa May, the British home secretary, told the Leveson Inquiry on Tuesday.

The inquiry is considering how to keep relationships between the police and the press professional after close contacts between some senior officers and journalists, who often met over dinner and drinks, were revealed in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

The draft guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) recommend a ”blanket non-acceptability” of hospitality, in order to help prevent any suggestion that the police could be influenced by contact with journalists.

Police should only be allowed to accept “light refreshments and trivial and inexpensive gifts of bona fide and genuine gratitude from victims and communities,” they say.

Mrs May said she did not believe the guidelines, which have yet to be ratified, would have a “chilling effect” on the media.

She also told the inquiry into press ethics that she did not think senior police officers should follow the example set by politicians in their relationship with the media. Politicians had to have a different kind of contact with journalists because they were elected, she said.

The home secretary is the first serving cabinet minister to give evidence to the inquiry. She will be followed by Michael Gove, the education secretary and former Times journalist, who is due to attend the inquiry later on Tuesday.

Mr Gove has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Leveson inquiry, questioning the prime minister’s decision to set up the inquiry, which he suggested was having a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

Earlier this year, he warned there was a danger of “judges, celebrities and the establishment” using Leveson to impose self-interested regulations on British newspapers.

Other government ministers will appear later in the week with Vince Cable, business secretary, and Ken Clarke, justice minister, taking the stand on Wednesday and Jeremy Hunt, the embattled culture secretary, due to be examined on Thursday.

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