In April 2014, Gareth
Davies, a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser had three police officers turn up
on his doorstep to accuse him of harassment. He had contacted a woman about to
be sentenced for fraud to ask her about fresh allegations. He called on her once
in March 2014 to offer her the right of reply to the new allegations.
She made a complaint of harassment based on that single instance of a journalist doing his job.
The police officers said that doing their job was what News of the World journalists said. Well since the News of the World and the Met. enjoyed a particularly corrupt relationship, then they should know!
The Legal Director of Liberty, James Welch, said “All too often the police seem to hand out harassment notices without adequate investigation or consideration of the validity of complaints”. Without any investigation in my experience.
Bob Satchwell, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, said: “This is a ridiculous misuse of a law originally introduced to deal with stalkers. It is also extremely silly. It is time someone gave the police an injection of common sense. It seems some police officers do not understand that the media is simply a conduit to the public who they are supposed to serve and who have a right to know”.
Gareth’s employer complained to the Met. but in their view a journalist making just one approach went “beyond what is reasonable” and…
The warning is simply a warning 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.
The journalist was threatened with a criminal record for doing his job.
The Croydon Advertiser took the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission but after the usual year long wait, they rejected it. Apparently seeking facts and reporting them is an arrestable offence.
The publisher sought a Judicial Review which was set for last Friday, however the prospect of facing a judge was too much for the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC. They backed down and agreed to both revoke the Harassment warning and recompense the journalist and his employer’s legal costs.
Not only that, and perhaps far better, they agreed to seek a review of the guidance on issuing Harassment warnings to journalists.
Source: Guardian Newspaper 17th May 2016 and an earlier report.