UK

Sun journalist has Elveden conviction quashed

Anthony France Image copyright Getty Images

Sun crime reporter Anthony France has won an appeal against his conviction for paying for tip-offs from an anti-terrorism officer.

He was the only journalist to be successfully tried under Operation Elveden, the police probe into payments to public officials.

Mr France, 42, from Watford, was given an 18-month sentence in May 2015, suspended for two years.

He said he could now rebuild his life "after 1,379 days of sheer hell".

Lady Justice Hallett, who heard the appeal with Mr Justice King and Mr Justice Dove, announced that Mr France's conviction would be quashed and said there would not be a re-trial.

'Miscarriage of justice'

Mr France - who was at the Court of Appeal in London to hear three judges allow his challenge against his conviction - was embraced by fellow journalists from the Sun after the ruling.

"I am delighted that this serious miscarriage of justice has ended today," he said outside court.

Mr France was convicted of aiding and abetting PC Timothy Edwards to commit misconduct in public office between March 2008 and July 2011 following a trial at the Old Bailey last year.

PC Edwards sold 38 stories and tip offs to Mr France between March 2008 and July 2011 in exchange for more than £22,000. He pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and was jailed for two years in 2014.

Image copyright PA
Image caption News UK said after the ruling that it was "delighted" Mr France's conviction had been overturned

Mr France's appeal centred on the directions given to the jury at the trial by Judge Timothy Pontius.

In a written ruling, Lady Justice Hallett said they concluded that the jury "were not provided with legally adequate directions tailored to the circumstances of the case and that the conviction was unsafe".

'Significant day'

A News UK spokeswoman said after the ruling that it was "delighted" Mr France's conviction had been overturned.

"In the course of the last five years, 19 journalists from The Sun were prosecuted as a result of Operation Elveden and not one has resulted in any conviction being upheld," she said.

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the ruling marked an "end point" to Operation Elveden, which officially ended earlier this year and cost almost £15m.

He said: "Not a single journalist who was put before a jury has been successfully convicted, and so I think it is a significant day."

Our correspondent added that the ruling meant that - while Operation Elveden could be seen as a success in relation to the charging of public officials - in relation to journalists "it has to be seen as an almost total failure".

Of the journalists charged, only one, Dan Evans, from the News of the World, pleaded guilty. He received a suspended 10-month sentence in July 2014 after admitting phone hacking and making illegal payments to public officials.

In April 2015 the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges of making illegal payments to officials against nine journalists - including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said there needed to be "far wider protection" for journalists reporting in the public interest and said: "Careers and lives were destroyed by the overlong and hugely expensive police investigation."

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