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Police watchdog rejects weekly reporter’s harassment appeal

Gareth-Davies1-e1426510044323An award-winning weekly reporter has lost his appeal against a harassment warning served on him by police while he was investigating a convicted fraudster.

Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies, left, was issued with the notice after Neelam Desai, who received a 30 month jail sentence after admitting frauds totalling £230,000, contacted the police to say she felt “persecuted” by the stories he was writing about her.

The Metropolitan Police previously rejected a complaint by the Advertiser about its decision to serve Gareth with the police information notice (PIN), so the paper took the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

However the Advertiser reports that the watchdog has now told the paper that the warning was “properly issued.”

In a letter sent to the paper on 19 June Paul Berry, casework manager at the IPCC, said: “Significantly, there were supporting grounds to the harassment detailed in the statements of (investigating officers) PS Ehikioya and PC Parker.

“The evidence would suggest that the warning was properly issued and no misconduct concerns have been identified.”

“Whilst I acknowledge the concerns that you have raised, the issue of the PIN is not based on, or suggestive of, any guilt on your part.”

“You were issued with the warning as a result of concerns raised specifically regarding your repeated contact with Ms Desai, not to stop you writing a news story in our newspaper or to censor the press.”

Gareth, who won the Weekly News Reporter of the Year award for the third time at last month’s Regional Press Awards, said he told officers at the time the harrassment allegation was made that he had visited Desai’s house once and sent her a politely worded email, while Desai had made repeated calls to him pretending to be her cousin.

In response, he claims one of the officers told him:  “That’s what the News of the World phone hackers said.”

Mr Berry said in his letter: “I agree that is was possibly misguided for the officer to refer to the phone hacking scandal but, in terms of the allegation under investigation, I am of the opinion the evidence shows the harassment warning was issued in order to bring to your attention the fact that your approaches to Ms Desai were considered to have gone beyond a reasonable course of conduct.”

Gareth said today that the case showed that police information notices could be used to block responsible journalism.

He told HTFP: “I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the IPCC’s decision, which reaffirms how broken these powers are.

“It is clear the police are able to issue harassment warnings without having to establish the facts or the possible motivations behind the allegations.

“It is very frustrating that neither a formal complaint or an appeal to the IPCC can prompt these circumstances to reconsidered using basic critical thinking you would expect of the police.

“It cannot be right that the police have the power to issue a formal warning, which may appear on an enhanced criminal records check, without subjecting the allegations to even the most basic of investigations.

“This case shows that PINs can be used, by the people we write about, to hamper or block responsible journalism. If a door knock and an email is “beyond what is reasonable” then hundreds of journalists across the country are guilty of harassment on a daily basis.”

“But it goes beyond journalism. Since being issued with the warning I’ve been contacted by many people who have been given a PIN in dubious circumstances and are distressed to learn they have no way of challenging it.”


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  • June 23, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I bet games of cops and robbers in the schoolyard aren’t what they used to be these days.

    ‘I’m issuing you with a public dispersal notice, please get out of the playground and don’t come back for 48 hours.’

    ‘But I haven’t done anything.’

    ‘That’s what Bin Laden said’.

    ‘Why don’t you catch some robbers instead?’

    ‘I would do, but unfortunately the alleged victim was unable to provide me with any CCTV footage’.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    This is completely bonkers. Is Paul Berry proud or ashamed of what he has done? We should be told.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    It is this type of policing that kept Jimmy Savile off the front pages and out of a dock. If a convicted fraudster can complain about a single email, any senior public figures who wish to be kept out of the press can easily call upon their friends in high places.
    Perhaps the two officers who had time to deal with the outrageous behaviour of this journalist might have found their time better spent chasing burglars?

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  • June 23, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Bad luck Gareth, we and all other sensible non-criminals are on your side. The police in this instance have been total muppets. And as for Neelam Desai, this doesn’t alter the fact that she is a convicted fraudster.

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  • June 24, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Don’t be intimidated, Gareth. Keep doing the job as you see fit.
    The plods must know in their hearts that this order is a joke and makes them look foolish. It won’t take them long to find something more useful to do – like catching crooks, for instance.

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