May 18, 2016
Journalist succeeds in overturning police warning
Met Police agree to revoke Harassment Warning given to a journalist for doing his job
A journalist has succeeded in revoking a Prevention from Harassment Warning issued by the police after a two year battle.
Gareth Davies, a journalist at the Croydon Advertiser, and Local World (the publisher of the Croydon Advertiser) issued judicial review proceedings against the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who refused to quash a Prevention from Harassment warning issued by the Metropolitan Police.
Mr Davies had been issued with a warning in 2014 in relation to admitted conduct of one phone call and two direct e-mails to a convicted fraudster, with a third e-mail to her solicitor, in order to put allegations to her in connection with a story he was investigating.
A Prevention of Harassment Warning Letter (also known as a Police Information Notice or PIN) is a document that is issued by the police where an allegation of harassment is made which would amount to an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act but where there is not sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.
The proceedings sought a declaration that the warning should not have been issued; that the IPCC’s decision be quashed and that the IPCC should be directed to instruct the Metropolitan Police to remove the warning from its records or reinvestigate the matter. Permission had been granted on 9th February 2016 by Mr Justice Picken and the claim was listed for hearing on 20th May 2016.
It was argued on behalf of Mr Davies and Local World that the issuing of harassment warnings to journalists in respect of journalistic activity (in this case contact with the subject of a story in order to put allegations of fraud) was contrary to Article 10 ECHR and would have a serious chilling effect across the media. It was contended that harassment warnings should only be issued against journalists in respect of journalistic activity in exceptional circumstances none of which applied in Mr Davies’ case.
In settlement of the claim and in an agreed statement of reasons, the Metropolitan Police confirmed they were prepared to revoke the PIN without making any admissions in respect of the judicial review proceedings. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC each agreed to write to the College of Policing to inform them of the proceedings and to request that it review national guidance in particular the Practice Advice on Investigating Stalking and Harassment as to the use of PIN’s in a journalistic context.