Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Advertising watchdog bans 'misleading' police ad

Police officers
The Home Office said people must know what they can expect from police

A Home Office campaign stating that police can now be expected to spend 80% of their time on the beat has been banned by the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the advert did not make clear time spent "on the beat" included duties other than foot patrols.

It said the television advert must not be broadcast again in its current form.

The Home Office said it was "extremely disappointed". It said the advert told people what to expect from police.

The ASA said the advertisement broke its rules on being "legal, decent, honest, truthful".

It said that as well as having a misleading definition of "on the beat", the advert failed to make it clear which officers it referred to.

The pledge does not apply to all 140,000 police officers in England and Wales, only to 13,500 neighbourhood constables and 16,000 community support officers in neighbourhood policing teams.

Unless the public know what they have been promised, they cannot then hold their local forces to account
Home Office

The ASA ruling said: "The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure the basis of claims was made clear in future. We also told them to ensure they held adequate substantiation for future claims."

The adjudication is due to be officially published next week, however a copy of the report was leaked to a national newspaper.

The ASA said it would not comment on the adjudication ahead of its official release, but said it was "disappointed" the report had been leaked ahead of time.

The police advert is part of a campaign intended to make clear what the public can expect from the police.

It features a youth in a hooded top trying to steal a police badge but being taken away by officers.

Meaning 'explicitly clear

The advert says the 80% beat pledge means the public will be seeing "a lot more" of the police "and so will any criminals".

A Home Office spokesman said: "We believe that 'on the beat' is a recognised term for what the police do whilst working in neighbourhoods and engaging with communities.

"This can be patrolling, talking to the public in the street, attending a residents' meeting, challenging people's actions or behaviour and of course, where necessary, making arrests.

"We also believe that the adverts made it explicitly clear in the voice-over that it was Neighbourhood Policing Teams who would be out on the beat.

"Unless the public know what they have been promised, they cannot then hold their local forces to account if they fail to achieve the standard."

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "Labour will stop at nothing to mislead the country and they seem willing to spend huge sums of honest taxpayers' money to achieve it.

"We can't go on like this. This government has got to realise that the British public deserve better."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Voters should not be fooled by Labour claims about the time police officers spend on the beat, as neither Labour nor the Tories are prepared to commit to increasing police numbers."

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