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Anorak | The State V Gareth Davies: The Police Persecution of A Journalist Is Part Of A War Against Free Speech

The State V Gareth Davies: The Police Persecution of A Journalist Is Part Of A War Against Free Speech

by | 4th, April 2014

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GARETH Davies is chief reporter of the  Croydon Advertiser . Police have served him with an harassment order,  a “Prevention of Harassment Letter”. His offence? He put allegations to a convicted fraudster.

Free speech is under attack.

As Brendan O’Neil writes:

Britain’s leading liberal writers and arts people can, sans shame, put their names to a letter calling for state regulation of the press, the very scourge their cultural forebears risked their heads fighting against.

So. What of Gareth Davies, the latest victim of the war on free speech?

Press Gazette :

It states that fraudster Neelam Desai claims Davies contacted her via Twitter and email on more than two occasions “seeking to interview her for a story for a local newspaper.

“She has stated that she does not wish to be contacted or written about by Mr Davies as she feels harassed by these actions. Mr Davies has failed to accept this, but continued to write and and make unsolicited contacts which result in Ms Desai feeling intimidated and persecuted.”

The letter states in bold type: “HARASSMENT IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE.”

It then states that harassment can take many forms, including “abusive communication” or “repeated attempts to talk to or approach a person who is opposed to this”.

Davies has been conducting an in-depth investigation into Desai which has resulted in five page-leads over the last month.

She is alleged to have 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.

Desai, 33, of Beulah Grove, Selhurst, has separately pleaded guilty to a string of frauds involving an international travel business she ran under a false name and is set to be sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on 25 April.

Says Davies:

“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.’ 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.

He adds:

“I’m being told if I carry on doing my job I could be liable to be arrested. I’m determined to carry on doing my work because I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong. Our job is to ask questions. We have to put allegations to people. The ridiculous thing is that a number of her victims haven’t been able to speak to a police officer for love nor money. But I send her a couple of emails and I have three policeman at the door.”

Croydon Advertiser:

“NEELAM Desai – a self confessed fraudster – has said she feels ‘persecuted’ by articles written about her in the Advertiser. Those articles are the result of an extensive investigation through which our chief reporter has exposed a complex dating website scam, which cost one victim £35,500. Desai, 33, is accused of conning at least three men out of thousands of pounds after contacting them through Asian marriage site Shaadi.com. She used a fake identity and claimed to be raising money for homeless children, but the woman they fell for did not exist. As a newspaper we have a responsibility to put those allegations to Desai, to give her the chance to respond…Our reports have prompted two police investigations into her actions which, for one alleged victim, follows months of fighting for his accusations to be taken seriously. That progress has come from good old fashioned journalism – not ‘harassment’.”

The Guardian :

Davies said he first approached Desai to give her a right to reply at her home, in Beulah Grove, Selhurst, on 4 March, and then sent two emails detailing the accusations and “politely” asking her for a comment.

Desai initially alleged assault against Davies but has since retracted the accusations.

However, she later claimed the emails she received, and the stories written by the paper, were harassment.

Daily Mail :

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The Times :

The case has prompted fears that the authorities will overreact to Lord Justice Leveson’s call for stricter regulation after the hacking scandal, and intrude on the

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Posted: 4th, April 2014 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink