Sun Six Trial: Court told Sun journalist was a “liar and a cheat” and that picture editor had ‘no idea’ that payments were to public officials – Martin Hickman

28 11 2014

New Sunday Sun tabloidA Sun journalist who paid a police officer for tip-offs and other information about high-profile crimes was a liar and a cheat, her former deputy news editor told a court today.

Although the reporter known in court as Journalist A was “a nice girl”, Ben O’Driscoll said he had problems with her professionally.

Dozens of her stories, he told Kingston Crown Court had “collapsed” because they appeared to be based on “little more than fantasy.”

He said: “I took her with a pinch of salt.

Mr O’Driscoll, now deputy news editor of the Daily Mail, and five other past and present Sun journalists accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

The two month trial revolves around payments made by Sun journalists to police officers, a health care worker and other public officials.

In his third day in the witness box, Mr O’Driscoll was asked about payments made by Journalist A (who cannot be named) to a police officer in return for stories about the footballer Jack Wilshere and an accident involving the sister of singer Mika.

Asked about a Sun front page about Wilshere brawling, Mr O’Driscoll said:

“My impression would have been that she [Journalist A] did not get the first tip on Wilshere and she was fishing for a cash payment. There’s no evidence here that a police officer was ever involved in a story about Jack Wilshere.”

He said of a taxi receipt submitted by Journalist A for meeting her police contact after the story: “Maybe she was inflating her expenses. Taxi receipts are the easiest thing for a journalists to put through.

Journalist A emailed the newsdesk asking for £500 “cash for my cop” as a welcome back after he had a stint with the flying squad.

Mr O’Driscoll said: “I didn’t believe that any of this was going to a police officer. She was a loose cannon and a maverick – a news editor’s worst nightmare.

Cross-examining, Oliver Glasgow, for the Crown asked: “How is that she gets £500 in cash the same day, that goes all the way of the authorisation process for your level to the top?’

Mr O’Driscoll told the court: “I would love to know.”

If the money really had gone to a police officer, Mr O’Driscoll agreed, it would have been a bribe. But he said: “I accept that she’s asking for a bribe but I think this is getting a cash payment for herself.

He told the court: “Dozens of her stories would collapse and not make it into the paper and be based on little more than fantasy.”

After a juror asked how a liar and a cheat could have kept her job at the Sun, Mr O’Driscoll said that often when she went out of the office “she could get stories.”

Mr O’Driscoll told the court he was now “hugely embarrassed” about an email he sent to Journalist A in 2010 about Mika’s sister being impaled on railings: “She’s really pretty too. Great tale.

Evidence was then given by Sun picture editor John Edwards, who said that he had no idea that payments sanctioned from the paper’s picture budget had gone to pay public officials and did not properly look at the emails requesting them, he told The Sun corruption trial today.

Mr Edwards was copied into three email chains from reporter Jamie Pyatt requesting payments for a police officer or a Broadmoor official and was also sent a direct request for a cash payment for Mr Pyatt’s police contact.

On each occasion Mr Pyatt received the cash payments from the picture desk.

However Mr Edwards, whose father is the veteran Sun royal photographer Arthur Edwards, said that he may not have received one email, probably “skim” read another and failed to properly scrutinise the other two.

Asked by his lawyer Sasha Wass QC: “Did you ever know or suspect that he [Mr Pyatt] was paying a serving police officer for information?” he replied: “Not at all.”

To the question: “Did you ever suspect or know that he was paying a nurse at Broadmoor for information?”, Mr Edwards told the court: “No”.

In answer to questions from Ms Wass, he said that he had never wanted to be made the Sun’s picture editor, under editor David Yelland in 2002.

Under Rebekah Brooks’ editorship, he told the court, he was put under “huge pressure” to get pictures that would sell the paper.

Asked what kind of pictures, he said: “Good show business, good glamour – you can talk about sexy pictures of Kelly Brook, if you like. But showbiz, mainlyBut news also.”

Ms Wass asked: “Did you have any training about anything?

Mr Edwards replied: “No, not really.”

“Privacy: was that something on your radar?” his lawyer asked.

He told the court: “Yeah, privacy. Pictures of children; where were the pictures taken; were you on public property when you took the picture; did you follow them – just generally trying to follow the code, the PCC code.”

The court heard that at 8.09am one day in 2006 Mr Pyatt emailed the Sun news editor Chris Pharo, and copied in Mr Edwards, requesting payments for two stories. Mr Pyatt wrote: “Can I bung £250 to the policeman and £250 from the picture desk to the soldier.”

There was no recorded response from Mr Edwards, though the payment was made by the picture desk.

Ms Wass asked Mr Edwards: “Can you say one way or another whether you were at work that day?

“No,” he said.

His QC went on: “And even if you were at work whether you would have responded?” Again Mr Edwards said: “No.”

He told the court: “I don’t remember this email.”

On 2 February 2010 Mr Pyatt emailed Mr Pharo, copying in Mr Edwards, asking for payment to a Broadmoor public official.

Mr Edwards responded: “OK, Jamie.”

He said that when he would have received the email, 8.39am, he would have been “hugely busy with viewing pictures and trying to get ready for conference.”

“As far as I’m concerned this is Jamie asking for money off my budget,” he said.

“Sometimes we would be under budget pressure. Most of the time at the Sun, money was never really any problem… but sometime we would have budget grief and we [news and picture desks] would help each other out.

In a third email, Mr Pyatt wrote: “Hi Chris and John, My police contact did a brilliant job for me on a man who stabbed his wife to death and then jumped in front of train… Can I get him £500 words and £250 pix?

Mr Edwards replied: “OK, Jamie

Asked what he understood by ‘police contact’, Mr Edwards told the court: “It could have been anybody. I’m not sure I considered greatly when I was reading this.

He said: “I would have skim read this email.”

Mr Pyatt directly emailed him to chase up a payment he had requested 11 days earlier for a scoop on an alleged plot to poison the Anne Summers boss Jacqueline Gold.

Mr Pyatt wrote: “Hi John, my police contact re the exclusive page nine… is getting grumpy. Any chance of sorting that £250 for the Thomas Cook in Maidenhead?”

Two minutes later, Mr Edwards replied: “Yes, of course, I’ll get Vicky to sort.”

Asked how much attention he would have paid to the email, Mr Edwards said: “It’s something I think has been agreed…

He said: “I’ve got complete faith in Jamie. I’m not worried about anything he says.”

Ms Wass said the total amount the picture desk allegedly spent on payments to public officials was £1,625 over nine years.

Asked how much that was, Mr Edwards said: “Minuscule. I had a budget of £3 million or £4 million a year.”

Mr Edwards, Mr Pyatt, Mr Pharo and three other past and present Sun journalists deny conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

Oliver Glasgow, for the Crown, is due to cross-examine Mr Edwards on Monday.

The six journalists deny all charges. The case continues.

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


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