A weekly newspaper journalist has been vindicated after a fraudster he was was accused of harassing was finally jailed for 30 months yesterday.
Travel agent Neelam Desai was jailed for 30 months at Croydon Crown Court yesterday having been found guilty of a series of frauds totalling nearly half a million pounds.
The 33-year-old, of Beulah Grove, Selhurst, had previously made allegations of harassment against Croydon Advertiser chief reporter Gareth Davies which led police officers to threaten him with arrest.
Gareth said that while he feels “vindicated” for the stance he took on the case of the dating site fraudster, he is still “deeply disappointed” that as of yet he has received no apology from the Police.
Gareth was served with a Prevention of Harassment notice by three officers from the Met last month after attempting to speak to Desai in relation to the case.
Said Gareth: “While I do feel vindicated to a certain extent, I am extremely disappointed that we have had absolutely no response whatsoever from the police. The Harassment order has still not been rescinded, and the Police have not apologised, but we are certainly not going to let this matter drop.
“Our legal team is working on this issue, and options include a judicial review or complaining to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. So we have chosen to do the latter, and complain to the IPCC.
“It is a matter of principle. If we don’t pursue this, then what is there to stop the police from accusing all reporters of harassing people, and trying to arrest them, merely for trying to do their job?”
Desai, who had previously admitted seven counts of fraud, was suspected of fleecing hundreds out of their life savings in an elaborate series of holiday and dating scams.
And when victims contacted Gareth to say she was at it again, he started his own investigation – in the hope that the police would follow suit.
But instead, it was he who got visited by three uniformed officers – who then served him with a harassment notice for the apparent crime of approaching the swindler for a comment.
In an unprecedented step, the chilling ‘prevention of harassment’ notice warned that any attempt to talk to, or approach the con woman could constitute harassment.
Tory MP Rob Wilson called it an ‘outrageous and heavy-handed’ attempt to hound journalists for doing their job to expose criminals.
“This is a chilling reminder of what can go wrong if the environment for journalists swings too far in the wrong direction,” he said.
“The police have got this badly wrong, and need to think very carefully about their actions. The public will take a very dim view of them protecting the rights of a fraudster and a criminal ahead of protecting the public.”