Sun journalists had "corrupt relationship" with police officer
Tuesday 22 September, 2015
By Martin Hickman
Two senior journalists at the Sun had a "corrupt relationship” with a police officer who passed Britain’s biggest paper inside information about investigations for years, a court was today.
Among the inside information provided were three witness statements from a rape inquiry, the jury at the Old Bailey in London heard.
The un-named officer also gave information about investigations into celebrities such as singer Mick Hucknall and TV presenter Chris Tarrant, and about murderers and rapists.
Sun news editor Chris Pharo and district reporter Jamie Pyatt are charged with aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.
They deny the charges.
Their trial is expected to last four weeks.
Opening the case, Julian Christopher QC, for the Crown, said Mr Pyatt had paid the un-named police officer about £10,000 on 18 different occasions, between 2002 and 2011.
He said Mr Pharo had known about and approved many of the payments after assessing the worth of the stories printed in the paper.
“He is regularly involved in reviewing Mr Pyatt’s requests,” Mr Christopher said.
“Not once did he turn down the requests that Mr Pyatt is making or question whether it’s appropriate to pay a police officer.”
Mr Christopher told the jury: “It may be that that ultimate approval came from higher up than Mr Pharo.”
Outlining the help provided, the Crown’s QC said the police officer:
· Gave information about incidents and accessed the Police National Computer
· Handed over photos of a suspect
· Gave witness statements on an investigation he was involved with
· Provided addresses for victims and suspects in ongoing inquiries
· Checked facts to verify stories so that they could be printed
Mr Christopher said: “Effectively he became the Sun’s secret paid informant within Surrey police.”
The Crown was in no doubt that the officer’s motivation “was to make money.”
In all, the prosecution’s case was that the Sun paid the officer £11,050 between 2002 and 2011, though Mr Christopher pointed out the defence accepted that he had been paid only £8,800.
The court was run through the stories where the officer was alleged or accepted to have provided inside information to the Sun.
They included the handing of three witness statements in a rape complaint against two police officers to Mr Pyatt.
The Thames Valley reporter also received tip-offs and other assistance about celebrities who had been questioned or arrested by Surrey police, and about the suspects and victims of murders.
Three payments were made for information about the disappearance of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, according to the Crown.
Mr Christopher said the information had given the Sun “a competitive edge” over its Fleet Street rivals, and meant its stories and photographs were more likely to be labeled “exclusive.”
The Crown will give more details of the stories when it open its evidence tomorrow.
Martin Hickman is crowd-funding his reporting of the trial with Byline.com. He thanks everyone who has contributed to his coverage.