In March last year Gareth Davies, of the Croydon Advertiser, was served with a prevention of harassment notice after Neelam Desai, who had pleaded guilty to a series of others frauds totalling £230,000, contacted the police to say she felt “persecuted” by the stories he was writing about her.
Desai was jailed for 30 months for her crimes in May but the Met did not rescind the notice and as a result Gareth submitted a formal complaint.
Gareth, pictured above, this week received a letter from the Met which concluded he “did go beyond what is reasonable”.
Inspector Claire Robbins wrote: “An approach to a suspect in a news story, to get their account, is a logical course of action to round off the story.
“However once Ms Desai made it clear of her wishes, the repeated texts, emails and even alleged visits to Ms Desai’s home address serve no obvious purpose.
“Ms Desai made it clear she was not going to give Mr Davies an interview and at this point his role should have been that of an observer and reporter of a news story.”
Hitting back in a blog post on the Advertiser’s website, Gareth responded that he had visited her house once, and that Desai had phoned the police making allegations he had impersonated a police officer and assaulted her.
He also denies sending her any text messages, adding he contacted her and her solicitor twice via email after more of her victims had come forward.
Gareth says she also made repeated phone calls to the Advertiser office pretending to be her cousin.
Three officers served Gareth with the notice at the office, and was warned he faced arrest for his “behaviour”.
When Gareth countered he was just doing his job, one office responded: “That’s what the News of the World phone hackers said.”
Referring to the incident, Insp Robbins added: “PC Chapman replied that he appreciated the frustration of Mr Davies but that journalists did not have exemptions from the law and then referred to the Rebecca Brooks story saying those journalists thought they were just doing their job.
“While it was not the most useful of analogies to make, as phone hacking is clearly not in anyone’s job description, the [phone hacking] case has probably been the most infamous of stories about journalists in recent years.
“I cannot see how this is politicising the harassment warning.
“I also cannot see any other purpose of the harassment warning beyond a way of highlighting to Mr Davies that his approaches to Ms Desai had gone beyond a reasonable course of conduct.”
Said Gareth: “I was told at the time that when police receive an allegation of harassment they are not required to carry out an investigation to discern the validity of the claims.
“As ridiculous as that seems, I had hoped they would at least investigate as part of the complaint I raised.
“Instead it seems they have again taken the account of a convicted fraudster and serial liar at face value.”
The letter is now being examined by the Advertiser’s lawyers and the newspaper has 28 days to ask the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the matter.