Sun Four Trial: Silencing journalists the ‘hallmark of authoritarian regimes’, defence tell jury

5 03 2015

Old_bailey_signA defence barrister at an ongoing trial involving four senior staff from the Sun has told an Old Bailey jury that former editor Rebekah Brooks has been “removed from the narrative.”

Vincent Coghlan QC, who is representing the newspaper’s executive editor Fergus Shanahan against charges relating to alleged payments to a Ministry of Defence civil servant said “If the editor was happy to pay for these stories it would be a brave deputy who refused,” adding that “if editorial approval was sought from anyone, it would be Rebekah Brooks.” The jury was then reminded of an 2008 email from the then editor, Brooks, who asked for paperwork for confidential cash payments not to be sent to her any longer “otherwise I will be signing all day.

The remarks came during closing argument at the trial of Shanahan, Sun Royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, former chief reporter John Kay, ex-soldier John Hardy and his wife Claire, all of whom are facing charges relating to misconduct in a public office. The barrister also said that some people wanted a “post-Leveson journalism,” of “government-approved news” and showed a newspaper mock-up to the jury with the headline “two ancient emails of slight interest to Old Bailey trial,” as an example of what that would look like.

Earlier Trevor Burke QC, who is defending John Kay, told the jury that News International, had “surrendered” the journalist’s civil service source to the police “without a fight,” but had also “quietly arranged for a lawyer to attend the police station were he was taken after his arrest.”

The QC said that Kay was on trial for “simply doing his job,” and spoke of the “disturbing development that journalists who report the news accurately and fearlessly end up in the criminal courts.” Burke said silencing journalists is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes, citing Russia, Egypt and China and told the jury that “the long hand of the establishment cannot reach into your room and tell you what to do.”

John Kay, Burke continued, saw his role “to hold the powerful to account and speak for those who have no voice, he only reported the truth.” Kay, the prosecution allege, arranged for a civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber to be paid £100,000 for confidential information about military matters, including details of casualties in Afghanistan and army sex scandals.

The 11 remaining members of the jury are expected to retire early next week to consider their verdicts. All of the defendants deny all of the charges.

 


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