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Reporter mounts legal challenge to police watchdog over harassment ruling

Gareth DaviesA weekly newspaper journalist is mounting a legal challenge to the police watchdog over its decision to uphold a harassment warning given against him.

Gareth Davies of the Croydon Advertiser, left, was served with the warning by the Metropolitan Police after door-stepping and sending emails to a convicted fraudster, Neelam Desai.

The Metropolitan Police rejected a complaint by Gareth against his treatment and its decision was upheld by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in June.

Now, with the backing of his paper’s publisher Local World, he is seeking a judicial review of that decision on the grounds that the force’s actions were “irrational and unlawful.”

Gareth was originally issued with the Police Information Notice (PIN) – or harassment warning – on March 31 last year while investigating Desai and her alleged involvement in a series of dating website scams.

He and Local World are seeking a declaration from the IPCC that the PIN should not have been issued, that the IPCC’s decision be quashed and that it should be directed to instruct the Met to remove the warning from its records or reinvestigate the matter.

Said Gareth: “I acted both within the law and the guidelines I am given as a journalist, but this case is about more than my conduct.

“It questions whether it should be possible to use PINs, or harassment warnings, to block or impede responsible journalism. I am very pleased that, in supporting me, Local World has recognised how significant these issues are.”

A spokesperson for Local World added: “Currently the police are able to issue harassment warnings, which can appear on a person’s record, without investigating whether the allegations are genuine.

“That cannot be right and for the benefit of all journalists across the entire industry as well as Gareth personally we hope the judicial review will confirm this very important point.”

Individuals and organisations can seek a judicial review if they believe a decision by a public body has been made unlawfully. A judge will then decide whether to grant permission for the review to go ahead to a full hearing.

The Met rejected Gareth’s original complaint saying his attempts to question Desai, who was previously convicted of frauds totalling £230,000, “went beyond what was reasonable”.

The reporter he had visited Desai’s home once and sent her two emails detailing the allegations against her and requesting a comment.

Gareth and Local World argue that this did not amount to harassment, and that the issuing of harassment warnings to journalists is contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression.


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  • September 14, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Good luck Gareth. You massively deserve to win this.

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  • September 14, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Nice to see a publisher taking the trouble to back its staff over an issue like this.
    Frightening action from a police force and the body that’s meant to safeguard against abuse.
    It will only take time and commitment to win through, so worth the stamina needed.

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  • September 15, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Local World has not always had a good press but on this point they are an excellent employer. Gareth has followed all the steps and played his cards with dignity and strength. I am one from the CIoJ who is certainly backing his fight against this harassment order. Logically if a journalists can’t ask people for their responses to allegations, how can we do our job?

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  • September 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Good luck

    The Met are increasingly acting like the thought control of some Eastern European or Gulf state where no criticism is allowed.

    Remember – the Met ruled that the MI6 man in a locked bag in a locked room was a suicide when a toddler could tell it was murder- and then compounded the error by letting people get in , when they were guarding it- to clean away all evidence !

    Just because they cannot do their job they must not be allowed to stop journalists doing their vital reporting.

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  • September 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    At this rate it is difficuot to work as a journalist in the UK – supposed to be the freedom of the world. LB

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  • September 16, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Best of luck to Gareth Davies of the Croydon Advertiser in his fight for a judicial review, for justice, and to his company for backing him.
    This is nothing short of an attack on the free press in what is supposed to be a democratic and open society.
    The public depends on the likes of Neelam Desai, convicted of serious crime and fraud against society, to be brought to account. Investigative journalists like Garrth are the cutting edge of that right.
    The charge of “harasement” from one doorstep call and two emails is nonsence. We all have the freedom to approach any doorstep from the street for legitimate purposes.
    Emails should not in all reason be declared “harasement” as they can just simply de deleted (I receive up to 250 emails a day in my job as a journalist, many unwanted and annoying — it’s part of modern life and the social media).
    Sometimes you have to send several emails when the recipient refuses to acknowledge or reply; it’s how the system is designed. But “harrasement” it is not.
    What nonsense that Gareth was ever issued with the Police Information Notice! The Met has gone beyond its duty of care in the community by issuing “harassment” warnings on a person’s record without investigating whether the allegations are genuine.
    Whose site is the Met on anyway, the criminal fraudster or the journalist protecting the public (which is what the Met should be doing)?

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