Sun ‘Mobile Phone’ Trial: Journalist transcribed contents of Labour MP’s stolen phone, court told

19 11 2014

Siobhain mcdonaghMichael Parroy QC continued in his opening address to the jury at Court 11 of the Old Bailey where senior Sun journalist Nick Parker faces three charges of ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office’ as well as two charges of computer misuse and handling stolen goods in relation to the mobile phone of former Labour Deputy Chief Whip, Siobhan McDonagh.

Earlier the jury had heard allegations that Parker ran exclusive stories based on paid information from a Surrey Police officer, Alan Tierney, for information on the arrest of footballer John Terry’s mother and mother-in-law for alleged shop-lifting.

Further evidence in the afternoon concerned an allegation of assault by the Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood on his girlfriend Ekaterina Ivanova. Audio recordings of conversations between Parker and Tierney in December 2009 capture the police officer giving the names and addresses of witnesses to the incident warning, “if that goes in paper they’re going to know it came from me”.

Parker is then recorded as saying: “I’ll sort that grand to your mum, your mother-in-law.

The conversation was soon followed by a Sun front page exclusive on 4 December 2009, the day after Wood was bailed, in which the two eye witnesses were interviewed by the paper and a ‘police source’ quoted.

Alongside Parker in the dock was Lee Brockhurst, a prison officer from Swaleside Prison in Kent who is accused of selling six stories to The Sun. Notes recovered from Brockhouse’s premises by the police provide details of several of exclusive stories published with Parker’s by-line, about drug and phone smuggling in prison.

An internal News International chit for confidential cash payments were produced in evidence, along with emails confirming the source was active prison officer. One email chain about ‘dosh’ from Parker explains “also need to pay prison contact (a prison officer) £400 for exclusive on heroin bust… he’s a good source.

Brockhouse, it was alleged, was also paid to identify a female prison officer who was dismissed for having an affair with an inmate.

In addition to The Sun charges, the prison officer faces a count of supplying five stories to the People newspaper over the same period, traced through BACS payments from parent company of The People, Trinity Mirror to his bank account.

In a bizarre twist, it emerged that one of Brockhouse’s mobile phone numbers was revealed by a member of the public who bought a second hand mobile (previously belonging to Parker) only to find Rebekah Brooks’ and Max Clifford’s names stored in the contact list. She rang Clifford who confirmed the position and told her to inform the police.

The jury were also shown texts between Brockhouse and another media contact in February 2012, following news of the arrest of Nick Parker and other Sun journalists due to information released by News International to the Scotland Yard probe into payments to public officials, Operation Elveden.

Brockhouse texts his contact that he sold stories to the Sun, but only on a confidential basis, and for cash. “Could this come back and bite me in the arse?” Brockhouse asks. He received the reply: “the way you were paid was very wise.”

But the most politically charged evidence concerns the last four counts of theft, handling stolen goods, and access to unauthorised data in regards to the phone of Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhan McDonagh.

McDonagh’s phone was stolen from the back her car between 6pm and 6.07 pm on 17th October 2010. The Blackberry mobile was not secured by a personal PIN number. Within 30 minutes, call data suggests that Michael Ankers, 30, who lived nearby, had replaced McDonagh’s SIM card with his own. Just before 10 o’clock that night, Ankers called the Sun newsdesk.

The next morning, Nick Parker was emailed using Ankers code name “Junior is on.” Parker met Ankers near Richmond station around 10 a.m. and booked into the Petersham hotel using the News International travel agents and a corporate Barclaycard.

The crown alleges that The Sun had agreed to pay Ankers £10,000 for any story that came from McDonagh’s phone. They also say that, even if Parker believed Ankers story he had “found the phone on the tube”, it was still “theft by finding”.

Hotel receipts suggest Ankers and Parker were holed up in the hotel for the next six hours. Parkers’ laptop, examined by police, had a ten page document which categorised the contents of McDonagh’s texts under various categories such as ‘Ed’s Won’ and ‘Champagne’.

At the time, McDonagh was campaigning for David Miliband in the Labour leadership contest.

“Mr Parker was physically transcribing… the contents of the phone, putting in occasional comments as he did so,” Michael Parroy QC told the court about the email exchanges between Parker and another Sun journalist: “Mr Parker was effectively reporting back to base.

Though The Sun emailed back “V Good the Siobhan Transcript” and replied in the middle of the night about a “racy text conversation,” there was no story produced by the paper, and the phone was returned to Ankers to return to the police, but not before Parker ensured that a photographer took a photo of Ankers taking back the phone because “he believed the phone was stolen,” Parroy said.

Parroy will conclude his opening statement today (Wednesday).

All three defendants deny all the charges, and the trial is expected to continue for around three weeks.

This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks


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