Independent Police Complaints Commission
PO Box 473
24th June 2015
Dear Ms Longstone,
I’m writing in reference to a recent judgement by Paul Berry, casework manager at the IPCC.
The case concerns Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies and his investigation of Ms Neelam Desai regarding an alleged fraud. Mr Davies was issued with a first instance harassment warning in the form of a Police Information Notice on 31st March 2014 while investigating this story.
The Metropolitan Police rejected a formal complaint about the warning. Inspector Claire Robbins, who investigated the complaint, found that Mr Davies’ attempts to question Desai went "beyond what is reasonable". She added:
“Once Ms Desai made it clear of her wishes [not to give her side of the story] the repeated texts, emails and even alleged visits to Ms Desai’s home address serve no obvious purpose.”
She appears to have taken Ms Desai’s word that there were repeated texts and emails. Mr Davies maintains that he has never sent Ms Desai any texts (let alone “repeated” ones), nor did he make multiple visits to her home. At the point at which Ms Desai made the allegation of harassment on 19th March 2014, he says he had sent her one email. On the one hand, Inspector Robbins claims that the harassment warning was issued “based on the full facts” but on the other hand she says “when an allegation of harassment is made officers need to detail the basis for the alleged harassment but do not need to investigate this further.” So did officers investigate whether the alleged harassment took place or not?
The Croydon Advertiser appealed to the IPCC arguing that the warning was issued without an investigation against a reporter who was acting responsibly and that the enquiry into the complaint included numerous inaccuracies.
In Mr Berry’s response, he repeats the very disturbing suggestion that “there is no requirement for an investigation” of alleged harassment before issuing a warning and goes on to say “the issue of the PIN is not based on, or suggestive of, any guilt on your part.” However, Inspector Robbins says the purpose of the warning was to inform Mr Davies that “his behaviour is not welcome and that he is advised to desist or there may be further investigation by police which could result in an arrest.”
Mr Davies is a well-regarded local reporter who was investigating a story that was clearly in the public interest. The individual that Mr Davies was investigating complained to the police who, without checking whether Ms Desai’s claims were true, issued a warning to Mr Davies advising him to desist. This is a very worrying attack on press freedom and to that end I have sent a copy of this letter to the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports. Given the important issues it raises I will also be making it public on my website.
I look forward to your swift response.
Member of Parliament for Croydon Central
CC: The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary
CC: The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Justice
CC: The Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport'