UK

Sun journalists cleared of paying police for stories

Chris Pharo and Jamie Pyatt Image copyright Reuters/PA
Image caption Chris Pharo (left) and Jamie Pyatt had both denied the charges

Sun journalists Chris Pharo and Jamie Pyatt have been cleared of aiding and abetting a police officer to commit misconduct in a public office.

The court had heard that a Surrey police officer was paid £10,000 for tips between 2002 and 2011.

The jury was not told during the trial that the officer, Simon Quinn, of Horsham, West Sussex, had pleaded guilty to the offence.

He was jailed for 18 months earlier this year.

Mr Pharo, 46, from London, and Mr Pyatt, 52, of Windsor, Berkshire, went on trial following an investigation as part of Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard's inquiry into corrupt payments to public officials.

Their retrial was the final trial of journalists relating to Operation Elveden at the Old Bailey, following a string of cases.

'Error of judgement'

Both had denied actively encouraging the police officer to breach his professional duty.

Mr Pyatt, who was a district reporter for the paper, said the information he received was all in the "public interest" and there was "nothing in there so confidential and secret the public don't have a right to read it".

And Mr Pharo, the Sun's head of news and Mr Pyatt's boss, told the court his involvement was assessing some of Mr Pyatt's stories and passing the reporter's cash payment requests, for his Surrey police source, up the editorial chain for authorisation.


Elveden statistics

  • 31 convictions and 31 acquitted or not proceeded with
  • 29 public officials, or relations/partners, convicted
  • 4 public officials or their relations/partners, and 27 journalists acquitted or not proceeded with
  • 5 outstanding prosecutions of public officials
  • 15 journalists face no further action

Outside court, the two defendants described the four-year case as a "nightmare".

Mr Pharo told reporters the case had "extended way beyond just us".

"It's damaged our families, our friends and the true human cost to everybody caught up in Operation Elveden is incalculable.

"I want to ask one simple question. How could anyone imagine spending more than £30m over four years prosecuting journalists for doing their job was remotely in the public interest?"

Elveden cases

Mr Pyatt said: "It's four years of my life taken away.

"The head has finally been chopped off the Elveden dragon. It's gone. It should never have been there in the first place. It's disgraceful."

Defence counsel Nigel Rumfitt QC had told the court there had been a "monumental error of judgment in pursuing the case".

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said the case had been put before a jury "after careful consideration".

"The case was allowed by the judge to progress to a full trial and we respect the verdict of the jury today.

"This case in particular involved allegations of multiple payments to a corrupt public official in areas where the public should generally expect confidentiality."

Operation Elveden, the £20m Metropolitan Police investigation into newspapers' activities, has seen 29 cases against journalists brought to court.

Of those, only Sun crime reporter Anthony France has been successfully convicted by a jury. Another journalist, Dan Evans, received a suspended sentence after entering a guilty plea.

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