openDemocracyUK

The Sun trials: Monday 5 October: Sun journalist knew his informant was breaking the rules

openDemocracy is been bringing daily coverage of the trial of Sun journalists charged with aiding and abetting misconduct in public office by paying a police officer for information. Here's Monday's report.

Martin Hickman
5 October 2015
Old_bailey_sign.jpg

Wikimedia

Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt knew a police officer was breaking the rules of his employment by covertly supplying information on investigations to the tabloid, he told his trial today.

Entering the witness box at the Old Bailey for the third day, Mr Pyatt said he believed Officer 2044's motivation for helping the newspaper was "primarily money.”

He agreed with the Crown’s claim that the officer – first a constable, then a detective constable with Surrey Police – was risking his career every time he gave information to the Sun.

However Mr Pyatt said that he had been advised by the paper’s lawyers that he was doing nothing wrong if he paid a public official, as long as the public official had approached the newspaper and not vice-versa.

Mr Pyatt told the Old Bailey: "I knew he was in breach of his terms of employment, but I wasn't in breach of mine."

Mr Pyatt, Thames Valley reporter, and Chris Pharo, Sun's Assistant Editor (News), deny aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office between 2002 and 2011.

As their trial in Court 13 entered its third week, Mr Pyatt accepted that he had paid about £10,000 cash to Officer 2044, included £1500 cash for an exclusive about a rape inquiry into Mick Hucknall [who was not charged].

He agreed that the information supplied by Surrey Police’s press office was free.

Cross-examining, Julian Christopher QC, for the Crown, asked: "If it was through official channels, you wouldn't have to pay for it, would you?"

"Correct," replied the journalist. He added "You need a source to get to the truth.”

Asked if he paid Officer 2044 to "get a competitive edge over your rivals," Mr Pyatt, 52, replied: "That's what journalism is all about."

He told the court: "I was encouraging him to bring me stories, yes. It was my understanding that I was doing nothing wrong."

In later exchanges on his criteria about accepting information from Officer 2044 – it had to be accurate and in the public interest – Mr Pyatt said: "Everything that goes in the Sun newspaper is in the public interest – that’s a fact."

He said that since the Sun newsdesk had passed Officer 2044 to him he assumed that “everyone” knew he had a Surrey police source.

However, in answer to questions from Mr Pharo’s barrister, Nigel Rumfitt QC, Mr Pyatt said he had not identified exactly who his source was to the news editor.

At the end of his examination-in-chief at 1pm, Mr Pyatt’s lawyer Richard Kovalevsky QC asked: "Do you think you have done anything wrong?"

Mr Pyatt responded: "No. Ever since I began at the Sun I have followed the rules of my editor's code, all the guidelines I was given by the lawyers."

He added that he had followed what those above him had told him. Officer 2044 had given him information that was not confidential, was accurate and was in the public interest.

"I don't believe I have broken the law," Mr Pyatt said.

"I wouldn't break the law. I love my job, but as much as I love it I don't love it enough to go to prison for it."

The case continues.

 

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

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