openDemocracyUK

The Sun trials - Friday 2nd October 2015

Were all the stories paid for in the public interest? "Absolutely".

Martin Hickman
2 October 2015
 Youtube.

Jamie Pyatt (bottom left) is on trial for aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. Credit: Youtube.

All the stories a police officer funelled to the Sun for cash were in the public interest, the reporter who made the payments told the paper's corruption trial today.

Jamie Pyatt, the Sun's Thames Valley reporter, said he had not received a single complaint about any of the stories for which the constable provided information or photographs.

Mr Pyatt, 52, is on trial at the Old Bailey in London for aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office by paying Officer 2044 for stories published in the Sun between 2002 and 2011.

Chris Pharo, 46, Assistant Editor (News) at the country's biggest newspaper, on trial alongside Mr Pharo for the same charge, allegedly approved payments to Officer 2044.

Both deny the charges

Mr Pyatt admitted during his first day of evidence that he had lied to detectives when he told them he had not paid any police officers for their help. He now accepts that he paid Officer 2044 on 11 occasions for 13 stories.

Entering the witness box for the second day, Mr Pyatt was asked by his barrister Richard Kovalevsky QC: "Did you ever have any complaint from anybody about the content of any of these stories?"

Mr Pyatt told the court: "No, I didn't have any complaint from anybody."

Mr Kovalevsky went on: "Are they all justifiable in the public interest?"

"Absolutely," the journalist replied.

Mr Pyatt explained much of the information for the stories "was already in the public domain," saying: "One of the primary reasons for having a source was to check information."

Asked about his relationship with the police, Mr Pyatt said that he had previously had a good working relationship with officers because they appreciated that his presence on their patch meant he was a "conduit" to the country's biggest newspaper.

One example of that relationship was that in 2009, Mr Pyatt had received information from a "police contact" who had alerted him to the fact that detectives had interviewed Jimmy Savile for abusing girls at Duncroft approved school.

He told the court the police contact was not Officer 2044, a detective constable.

Mr Pyatt explained he had followed up the Savile story by contacting former Duncroft pupils on the Friends Reunited website. In an attempt to "expose" Savile while he was still alive, Mr Pyatt said he persuaded "four or five" ex-pupils to go on record saying that Savile had molested them. 

But, he added, a Sun executive, whom he believed was Victoria Newton, had decided the Sun would only run the story if Surrey Police confirmed it, because Savile was "very litigious" and had previously been awarded £200,000 damages against the paper.

Mr Pyatt said Surrey police press office would not help and the Sun did run the story, against his best judgement.

He said that although phone records showed he phoned Officer 2044 several times on another story, when detectives were checking whether a body in a river was Milly Dowler, he had not managed to get through to him. 

Mr Pyatt said a cash payment for help on that story had not gone to Officer 2044 - as the Crown claimed - but to a member of the public who had rung into the paper with the initial tip-off.

The veteran reporter said Officer 2044 had passed him a photograph of the "Trophy Rapist" Tony Imiela, which allowed him to investigate a tip-off that the sex offender was also a regular user of sex workers. 

 

See openDemocracyUK's full series on the Sun trials here.

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