Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies has won his two-year battle to get a “prevention of harassment” notice against him rescinded.
His employers were set to take the matter to a judicial review hearing after failing in a bid to get the letter overturned by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
A Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: “We are pleased to confirm that we have reached a settlement with the IPCC and Metropolitan Police on the matter of the Police Information Notice (PIN) which was served on Gareth Davies of the Croydon Advertiser in 2014. The Police have revoked the PIN and Gareth will be provided with written confirmation of this.
“The Police and IPCC will also pay most of the legal costs of the proceedings and will write to the College of Policing to request a review of the guidance on using PINs with journalists.
“We are pleased this matter has been resolved in the right way and that we were able to support Gareth in reaching this point.”
The Met Police said in a statement: “On 11 May a decision was taken by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to revoke, without admission of liability, the Police Information Notice (PIN), or harassment warning letter, issued on 31 March 2014. This means the PIN should not be considered in relation to Disclosure Barring Service or similar checks.
“The MPS also agreed to write to the College of Policing to inform them of this and request they review the national guidance, in particular the Practice Advice on Investigating Stalking and Harassment.”
Davies doorstepped convicted fraudster Neelam Desai once and sent her two emails over claims she had conned people out of thousands of pounds. She complained to the police and in March 2014 three officers visited Davies at work and warned him that he could be arrested if he contacted her again.
In June this year the IPCC rejected a complaint brought by Davies, with a caseworker saying: “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.”
Nearly 2,000 people have signed a Press Gazette petition urging the Met Police to rescind the harassment warning issued against Davies.
The police stood by their decision even after Desai was jailed for 30 months after earning £230,000 by selling cheap package holidays which did not exist.
Davies received a phone call at work in Redhill, Surrey, in March 2014 from a police officer who asked him to attend Gypsy Hill police station in London immediately.
When he said he couldn’t attend straight away, the officer told him that they would come to him.
Davies said: “Three police officers turned up at the office, showed me this piece of paper and said they were serving me with a harassment notice.
“They said: ‘Neelam Desai says you have been sending her emails, contacting her on Twitter and asking her for her story.’”
Davies was investigating claims she had met men on an Asian marriage website and then tricked them out of large sums of money using fake identities. One alleged victim claims to have been conned out of £35,000.
Davies called at her home to put a set of allegations to her. He says she slammed the door on him, but they continued to speak through the letter box. She called the police and after a police car quickly arrived on the scene Davies left. He said that Desai had not asked him to leave.
Desai later made a complaint to the PCC and Davies learnt that she had alleged he had put his foot in the door and grabbed her in some way, which he emphatically denies.
Davies went to a police station to volunteer his version of events and was told that Desai had dropped the matter.
As more allegations about Desai’s activities were been made, Davies has contacted her twice more via email. He said the emails simply stated the allegations, informed her of the deadline and gave her the opportunity to respond.
Davies showed the officers the emails he had sent. “They said: ‘We are not here to argue the case. She’s saying you are harassing her, you have to know that if you do this again you are liable to be arrested and prosecuted.’
“I said: ‘This is my job. I do intend to write more stories because more and more victims are coming forward to talk to us. What can I do?’
“One of them said, because you’re a journalist that doesn’t give you special privileges. You say you are just doing your job, but that’s what the News of the World said and look what happened to that.”
Davies told the Croydon Advertiser today: “I am pleased the police have agreed to revoke the harassment warning and relieved that this matter has finally been resolved.
“I behaved as journalists across the country do on a daily basis but was issued with a warning by the police, which could have appeared on my criminal record, without officers conducting any form of investigation to establish whether the allegations were true.
“I’m glad that, in agreeing to write to the College of Policing, the Met and the IPCC have acknowledged that the use of PINs in relation to journalists needs to be reviewed. As my case has demonstrated, PINs can be used to impede responsible journalism.
“It’s unfortunate it had to reach this point but this settlement is a step in the right direction.”