Martin Hicks QC, representing ex-news editor Ben O’Driscoll, told The Sun corruption trial that The Sun had been right to spend £9,000 exposing wrongdoing at the Berkshire NHS hospital.
Mr O’Driscoll, now deputy news editor of the Daily Mail, is accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office by approving payments to a Broadmoor worker, Robert Neave, in return for stories printed in the tabloid.
He is also charged with two other counts relating to the payment or alleged payment of cash to a Surrey police officer and a Metropolitan Police officer in return for information for stories in The Sun.
Making his closing speech, Mr Hicks turned to the Broadmoor stories to argue that their dissemination was in the public interest.
Of Broadmoor’s clinical director Dr Kevin Murray, who gave evidence for the Crown, Mr Hicks told the jury: “He didn’t tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, did he?”
Mr Hicks said that two findings in a recent report into the behaviour of Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor found that there was “a culture in the five years ending 2011 of inappropriate relationships between staff and patients, in a sample of 42 cases, 9 were found to be inappropriate… a culture at ward level that tolerated boundary violations including those of a sexual nature… and which discouraged reporting.”
Referring to the stories printed in The Sun as a result of payments to Mr Neave, Mr Hicks said:
“None of these articles on Broadmoor are said to be untrue – thus Broadmoor was an institution that could not control its patients, could not control its staff from inappropriate behaviour and held little respect for victims and their families. That was the truth they wished to keep hush-hush.”
A total of £9,000 had been paid by the Sun to Mr Neave – yet the state spent £330,000 on each patient at the psychiatric hospital, said Mr Hicks.
He told the jury: “You have £9,000 of private money to expose wrongdoing in a public body that costs tens of millions of pounds a year.”
He said that without cash payments the US plane cockpit video showing British soldier Matty Hull was killed by friendly fire and the MPs expenses scandal would not have come to light.
There had been no guidance on paying public officials in McNae’s law guide for journalist, he added.
Of the three public officials on the three counts faced by Mr O’Driscoll, Mr Hicks said: “He never met them, he never spoke to them, he never emailed them.”
Mr O’Driscoll had disbelieved a Sun reporter, Journalist A, actually had a contact in the Metropolitan Police: “He told you he didn’t trust Journalist A – he told you she was very young; she had to be treated with extreme caution.”
Mr Hicks said no confidential information had been passed to Journalist A for a story about the death of a Portuguese teenager in the Whisky Mist nightclub in central London, headlined: ‘Rooney Dazed as Lad, 17 Dies Yards Away’.
The death had, he said, “happened in a central London nightclub in front of hundreds of people.”
In the case of another story, ‘Mika Sis Impaled after 50ft plunge’, the incident happened on a public highway where there were lots of people about. “What’s confidential?” asked Mr Hicks.
Mr Hicks stressed there was only story involving Mr O’Driscoll in the one count about cash payments by The Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt to Surrey police officer Simon Quinn: ‘Ann Summers Boss Poisoned by Nanny’.
Yet, Mr Hicks told the jury: “This count relies on the fact that Mr O’Driscoll must have inferred from the words ‘police contact’ that this was a serving police officer.”
He asked the jury to write their own headline on Mr O’Driscoll’s fate.
He said to the jurors: “Will that headline reflect the ruin or Ben O’Driscoll or might it give him a second chance to learn the mistakes of yesteryear and allow him to return to his work and family?”
Mr O’Driscoll and five other past and present Sun journalists, including Mr Pyatt, deny conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The case continues.
This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks