A follow-up to earlier posts from: Feb 2015 and June 2015
IPCC rejects appeal over harassment warning to newspaper reporter 23 June 2015
Commission says Met police were right to issue notice to Croydon Advertiser journalist
Gareth Davies: he was given an “harassment” warning by the Met police. Photograph: Gareth Davies/PA
Roy Greenslade – Guardian
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has rejected an appeal against a harassment warning that was given to a reporter after he questioned a convicted fraudster.
Gareth Davies, the Croydon Advertiser’s chief reporter, was served with a “prevention of harassment notice” (aka police information notice or PIN) in March 2014 while investigating Neelam Desai, a woman who had previously admitted frauds involving dating websites totalling £230,000.
The Metropolitan police decided that Davies’s attempts to question Desai went “beyond what was reasonable”. The paper says that these attempts amounted to a single visit to her home and, at the time the allegation was made, one email.
The newspaper made a formal complaint to the Met, but the force dismissed it. So the Advertiser appealed to the IPCC on the basis that the warning was issued without an investigation, and against a reporter who had acted responsibly.
It further argued that the inquiry into the complaint included numerous inaccuracies, and that it also failed to consider that, while claiming she was being harassed, Desai made repeated calls to Davies pretending to be her cousin.
But Paul Berry, casework manager at the IPCC, rejected the appeal. In his letter to the paper he said “the evidence would suggest that the warning was properly issued and no misconduct concerns have been identified”.
Part of the paper’s appeal concerned the fact that the harassment warning would appear on an enhanced criminal records check, but Berry said that was “not necessarily the case”.
He wrote: “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”.
The harassment warning was condemned by freedom of speech groups, international media organisations, other newspapers and legal experts. I also weighed in with a comment supporting Davies and attacking the Met police.
The Croydon Advertiser is clearly unhappy about the IPCC’s decision. In its article, it asks: “who was harassing who?” and points out that the warning to Davies was issued after Desai had pestered them to do it.
She called the police on 19 March to claim that Davies had harassed her between 5 March and 18 March.
But, accordng to the paper, emails obtained by Davies via the Data Protection Act show that it took officers 12 days – and repeated calls from Desai – to act on her allegations.
Comment: This decision by the IPCC is a disgrace. Davies acted as any reporter worth his or her salt should have done. He approached a convicted person and, when rebuffed, he did no more than send a follow-up email. This was not harassment. It was journalism.
I’ll tell you what harassment is. It occurs when a group of police officers raid a reporter’s house in the early hours of the morning because she is suspected of paying someone to obtain stories in the public interest and then place that journalist on police bail without charge for months on end.
Gareth Davies received that notice for doing his job, just as the Sun’s Whitehall editor, Clodagh Hartley, was arrested, charged and declared innocent at trial for doing hers.
IPCC? I wonder if that word “independent” before PCC really means anything at all.
MP backs Croydon Advertiser reporter over police harassment warning – 25 June 2015
Roy Greenslade – Guardian
He writes to IPCC chief executive following its rejection of the journalist’s appeal
Davies’s appeal against the issuing of the police information notice (PIN) was rejected by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Now Barwell has written to the IPPC’s chief executive, Lesley Longstone, to contest that decision, arguing that it amounts to “a very worrying attack on press freedom”.
His letter takes issue with the basis of the judgement made by IPCC’s casework manager who decided that the police’s action had been correct.
The case centres on Davies’s reporting on a woman, Neelam Desai, who had pleaded guilty to fraud offences (and was later sentenced to jail). Davies approached her at her home and later sent her a single email.
But Desai complained to the police that Davies had harassed her and he was issued with a PIN. After his paper made a formal complaint to the Met police about the issuing of the PIN, the matter was investigated by Inspector Claire Robbins, who decided that Davies’s attempts to question Desai went “beyond what is reasonable”.
In her report she said: “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”.
Davies was amazed, arguing that Robbins appeared to have taken Desai’s word that there were repeated texts and emails. He maintained that that he had never sent Desai any texts, nor had he made multiple visits to her home.
So the Advertiser complained to the IPCC. But its casework manager, Paul Berry, supported the Robbins report and said there was no requirement to investigate Desai’s claims of harassment.
In his letter to Longstone, Barwell writes: “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”.
He asked for Longstone a “swift response” and has copied in home secretary Theresa May, justice secretary Michael Gove and culture secretary John Whittingdale. Barwell’s website carries the full letter.
Press Gazette has also launched a petition on Davies’s behalf, here on the change.org website, urging the Met police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, to cancel the PIN.
It lists three reasons: first, that Davies did nothing to warrant it being issued; second, that the PIN tarnishes Davies’s charcater because it will show up on an enhanced criminal records check; and third, it sets a dangerous precedent and could deter other journalists from carrying out public interest investigations.
I have signed and I urge every journalist to do so. This sets a worrying precedent that has a chilling effect on our ability to report.
Britain’s harrassment laws need urgent reform – 6 July 2015
I AM writing to you in support of the petition calling for the cancellation of the harassment warning notice served on reporter Gareth Davies by the Metropolitan Police after he contacted a convicted fraudster for comment on a story he was writing.
There is a stream of cases now which clearly show that the present harassment laws need urgently to be reformed, and that section two of the Protection from Harassment Act should be repealed.
The section is being abused to stop perfectly lawful activities.
Journalists are not the only targets.
Tim Loughton MP was given a harassment warning notice by the Sussex Police for sending a copy of Hansard to a constituent.
Harry Salaman, a non-practising barrister, and myself, a retired solicitor, were acquitted and awarded our costs by the Brighton Magistrates in April this year of section 2 charges, allegedly for harassing sacked Chief Inspector Tanya Brookes of the Surrey Police.
True information, freely and publicly available in newspapers and online, was sent to her neighbours about her crown court trial for fraud offences.
She was convicted of 33 offences and sent to prison.
The magistrates found there was no harassment – the information was all in the public domain, the conduct was reasonable – and the sole purpose was to have a case involving Mr Salaman reopened.
Mrs Brookes was a witness in that case.
The law urgently needs to be changed to protect freedom of expression for everybody.
What is reasonable cannot be left to the police to decide. Please do all you can to get this law changed.
P GARLAND Wisley Lane, Wisley, Surrey
Metropolitan Police rejects harassment warning FOI because record-keeping ‘inconsistent’ – 24 July 2015
A Metropolitan Police ‘Prevention of Harassment’ letter, given to an Advertiser reporter
THE Metropolitan Police says it is unable to reveal how many harassment warnings it has issued because its record-keeping is “inconsistent”.
The Advertiser requested the figures under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act after its chief reporter was issued with a Police Information Notice (PIN) while investigating a convicted fraudster.
We asked the Met to disclose how many PINs – or Prevention of Harassment letters – it has given out, a year-by-year breakdown of their use and how many had led to arrests or prosecutions.
It refused to comply with the request, arguing that doing so would exceed the FOI cost limit of £450.
In a letter explaining the decision, a Met quality and assurance advisor said: “The Metropolitan Police Service records allegations of crime but does not record allegations of harassment in such a way that an answer to your request can be easily established.”
The Met records allegations of harassment, the circumstances and the outcome in its Crime Reporting and Information System (CRIS).
However, the response continued: “The recording of Prevention of Harassment letters is inconsistent and an analyst would therefore need to read each individual crime report to accurately verify if a [letter] was issued.”
Met quality advisor Audeeba Ali said a search of CRIS had revealed that, in the 2013/14 financial year, there were around 6,022 crime reports where the “suspect elimination reason” was “first instance of harassment”. The were 312 reports where the reason was “formal warning”.
“An analyst would therefore potentially need to read approximately 6,334 crime reports to determine if a Prevention of Harassment letter was issued,” the Met employee said.
“If it only took five minutes to read each report it would take approximately 528 hours to comply with your request. As you can see this by far exceeds the appropriate limit of 18 hours as specified by the Act.”
The Met failed to respond to a request for a copy of the formal guidance it gives to officers in relation to PINs, which can show up on criminal records checks.
More than 1,800 people have signed a petition calling on Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to cancel a PIN given to Gareth Davies, the Advertiser’s chief reporter, during his investigation of a convicted fraudster.
Neelam Desai complained to the police that she was being harassed after Mr Davies visited her home and sent one email questioning her involvement in a dating website scam in which one victim was tricked out of £35,500.
The Met later decided that our journalist had “gone beyond what was reasonable”. The Independent Police Complaints Commission rejected his appeal last month. The Advertiser, backed by other media organisations, is preparing to challenge that decision through a judicial review.
The police should take more care with their harassment warning notices 3 Dec 2015
Joshua Rozenberg – Guardian
If the police do not have the resources to investigate low-level harassment, as in the case involving Diane Louise Jordan, they should avoid taking sides
Diane Louise Jordan received a police information notice after a disagreement with another woman. Photograph: Anna Gordon
Diane Louise Jordan is understandably upset about receiving a harassment warning notice from her local police force in Cambridgeshire. The Songs of Praise presenter told the Mirror: “If I didn’t have my faith I don’t know how I would survive this.”
Perhaps she was overreacting. Police information notices, as they are also called, have no legal standing in themselves. They are not formal cautions. Signing one is not an admission of guilt or even evidence that harassment has taken place.
And they do not necessarily lead to a prosecution. On the contrary, they are likely to be regarded by the police as a substitute for action in appropriate cases.
The police started issuing these notices after the Protection from Harassment Act was passed by parliament in 1997. Under the act, it’s an offence to pursue a course of conduct that amounts to harassment of another person and which the person responsible for that conduct knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment.
Two things have to be proved for a charge to stick. First, you have to show that there was a course of conduct, which means the behaviour must have happened on at least two separate occasions. Second, you have to prove that the defendant knew, or should have known, that the conduct amounted to harassment.
The legislation was not well thought through, however. Early prosecutions failed because stalkers claimed they didn’t know that sending flowers or cards could amount to harassment. So the police started issuing suspects with formal notices. These can be useful in establishing whether there has been a complaint on more than one occasion. But what they don’t do is prove that a complaint was justified.
Crucially, notices should make it clear to anyone reading them that they are not court orders or even cautions. They should also state that anyone who receives or signs a notice is not admitting wrongdoing. Furthermore, police officers should not suggest that issuing a notice implies guilt. Guidance to this effect was issued in 2009 by the former Association of Chief Police Officers, and has been endorsed by the new College of Policing.
Four years ago, the government admitted harassment notices were not working. In a consultation paper introduced by Theresa May, the home office said: “We recognise that there are concerns around the process by which these notices are issued. Some argue that those issued with a police information notice are not given a fair hearing. Equally we are aware that some consider police information notices to lack teeth, and believe they give victims a false sense of security.”
The Home Office added that an individual’s details would not be recorded on the police national computer purely as a result of a notice being issued.
Because a police notice of this sort has no statutory basis and no legal effect, there is no right of appeal against it. But most people would find it deeply disturbing to receive one nonetheless, and you could be forgiven for not reading the small print. More importantly, issuing a notice is a poor substitute for investigating crime.
Diane Louise Jordan has denied the allegations against her, insisting that she had no contacts with her alleged victim: “I haven’t spoken one word to her in over a year. On one of the occasions I was supposed to have verbally attacked her I have proof I was hundreds of miles away in London.”The alleged victim is Kayla Thomas, Jordan’s daughter’s estranged husband’s girlfriend. Last year, Thomas accused Jordan of being very aggressive, poking and pushing her. “She was in my face saying, ‘You’re scum, you’re scum.’” That’s not accepted by Jordan.
As newspaper readers, we have no way of knowing whether one of these women is more to blame than the other. What we do know is that low-level tensions between individuals in circumstances such as these are a fact of life. They do not get reported on the front page of a newspaper unless at least one of the parties is a public figure with a reputation to lose.
Jordan has complained to Cambridgeshire police, the only option available to her. Police forces should take complaints such as this to heart. If they do not have the resources to investigate low-level harassment, they should avoid taking sides in cases where there is no realistic prospect of a prosecution.
Songs of Praise’s Diane Louise Jordan: My hell as cops arrived to accuse me of harassment 1 Dec 2015
Tom Bryant – Mirror
The TV presenter breaks her silence and insists the allegations levelled against her are all untrue
Denial: Diane says she did not harass anyone – Mirror
Songs of Praise host Diane Louise Jordan has spoken for the first time about being accused of harassment , saying: “If I didn’t have my faith I don’t know how I would survive this”.
The 55-year-old was issued with a harassment warning notice for allegedly subjecting a woman to “several incidents of verbal abuse”.
Her alleged victim was Kayla Thomas, the girlfriend of David Linton – the man embroiled in an increasingly messy divorce from Diane’s daughter Justine.
It was the second time she had been issued with such a notice, with the latest, served on October 29, citing three specific occasions of alleged verbal abuse, including at a school sports day.
Now Diane has insisted she is innocent and revealed she has also lodged a formal complaint with the police . She said: “This whole saga is the complete opposite of who and what I am. If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t know how I would survive this.”
Row: How the Mirror reported the claims
Diane, of Holme, Cambs, added: “When the police came to the door for the second time, I became terribly upset and said I couldn’t sign the notice as it wasn’t true.
“I knew I had had no contact with the victim. I haven’t spoken one word to her in over a year.
“On one of the occasions I was supposed to have verbally attacked her I have proof I was hundreds of miles away in London.
“At the sports day there would have been so many witnesses, yet no one reported any sort of fracas.”
Diane said police were “very keen” to say the harassment notice “wasn’t an admission of guilt” and merely to acknowledge a complaint had been made.
But she was horrified to learn it would show up on advanced criminal records checks, potentially affecting work with children.
Interview: Diane with Prince Charles – Andy Hutchinson/BBC
She said: “Anybody could have a completely clean character but for whatever reason someone can make completely false claims and get a notice served without any evidence and it can tarnish your name.”
Diane was first hit with a notice in 2014 after an incident at the home daughter Justine shared with her now estranged husband.
Ms Thomas claimed at the time: “Diane was being very aggressive, poking and pushing me. She was in my face saying, ‘You’re scum, you’re scum’. I felt threatened and called police.”
But Diane, who has interviewed the likes of Prince Charles, insisted she called the police herself after the woman allegedly refused to leave the house – and she claimed there was no violence.
Diane said she had received support from both the BBC and Care for the Family, a charity she has been involved with for many years.
She added: “They still support me but this morning the charity said they are getting emails from people saying I’m a hypocrite and that they shouldn’t have anything to do with me.
“It’s beginning to snowball.” But Diane said she had no ill-feeling towards Ms Thomas or Mr Linton.
And the star, who hosts Songs of Praise with Aled Jones and Pam Rhodes, explained that her faith has kept her strong – and she can even forgive.
Diane added: “I understand people get upset and do things they may regret. It is important to forgive and I don’t believe in revenge.”
Concern: Keith Vaz has spoken out about police warnings – Mirror
She added: “I just want her to leave me alone and that’s why I went to the police. I wanted it to stop. I didn’t go to cause any trouble for someone who didn’t deserve it. I just wanted to not be harassed by this woman.”
Mr Linton added: “I understand her career and reputation are at risk because of course, she has a squeaky clean brand to maintain, especially in Christian broadcasting. So, obviously she wants to ‘clear her name’.”
Labour MP Keith Vaz , chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said earlier this year there was a “clear danger” the warnings may be given out inappropriately without “sufficient investigation”.
A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman confirmed the force was looking into a complaint from Diane.
BBC star Diane Louise Jordan gets police harassment warning after sports day row 6 Nov 2015
BY Nick Dorman – Mirror
“Diane comes across as squeaky clean but she has left my friend terrified and visibly shaken”
Songs of Praise presenter Diane Louise Jordan has left a woman “terrified” after confronting her at a school sports day.
Diane, 55, has been handed a harassment warning by police.
The victim is the new partner of the man getting divorced from Diane’s daughter, Justine.
A pal of the victim said: “Diane comes across as squeaky clean but she has left my friend terrified and visibly shaken. This has to stop.
“Now she hopes the police action will mean Diane just leaves her alone to get on with her life.
“All this has been very distressing. She just wants to draw a line under the whole thing.”
The pal added: “This has been going on for months and has become really worrying. You would never expect this sort of behaviour from Diane. It has been bizarre and intimidating.”
Former Blue Peter star Diane signed the harassment notice on October 29 after officers contacted her at home in Holme, Cambs.
She was not cautioned, arrested or charged with any offence. But if she breaches the notice, which lasts a year, she could face a formal charge of harassment.
If prosecuted and found guilty, it could lead to a six-month jail sentence.
Former Blue Peter presenters Tim Vincent, Stuart Miles, Katy Hill and Diane Louise Jordan
The victim, who we are not naming, told officers that she had been harassed by Diane on several occasions over the past year.
Cambs police confirmed a harassment notice had been signed.
BBC star Diane, one of Britain’s best-known Christian broadcasters, could not be reached for comment last night.
A BBC spokesman said: “We would not comment on personal issues.”
The sports day confrontation took place in Cambridge, reportedly in June.
In October last year Diane signed a similar harassment warning in relation to the same victim.
It came after an incident the previous month.