Croydon journalist Gareth Davies today (May 17) celebrates the decision from the Metropolitan Police to revoke a harassment warning he received in early 2014, following his questioning of a convicted fraudster.
Davies – chief reporter for the Croydon Advertiser – received a Police Information Notice (PIN) while investigating Neelam Desai’s alleged involvement in a dating website scam.
Davies said: “I’m pleased the PIN has been revoked though it’s frustrating it’s taken this amount of time and effort to happen.”
Initially, the Met said his attempts to question Desai “went beyond what was reasonable”, a decision that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later upheld.
Davies said: “She complained to the police that by visiting her home and sending her an email – to give her a chance to respond to the allegations – I had ‘persecuted’ her.
“I didn’t agree with the PIN – I was doing what a responsible journalist is supposed to do – and I didn’t agree with the IPCC’s decision or how they handled my complaint. I felt they were as guilty of failing to conduct a proper investigation as the officers who had originally given me the warning.”
Both the IPPC and the Met have agreed to pay the majority of the legal costs for the legal proceedings and have promised to write to the College of Policing to request a review of the guidance on the use of PINs in relation to journalists.
Davies said: “I’m also glad the police and IPCC have agreed to write to the College of Policing to request guidance about PINs. However, I know from the many members of the public who have contacted me that there remain serious misgivings about PINs and the way in which they are used.
“I owe my editors, our company and the lawyers gratitude for helping me to fight my corner, when it would have been easier – and less expensive – for them not to.”
James Welch, legal director of human rights group Liberty, said: “The police seem to hand out harassment notices without adequate investigation or consideration of the validity of complaints. The police should be wary of discouraging good journalistic practice with these chilling warnings.”
Police Information Notices are not technically criminal offences and do not currently require police to investigate the allegations, but would appear if an enhanced criminal records check was carried out.