openDemocracyUK

The Sun trials: Tuesday 6th October "News International pays public officials"

openDemocracy is 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 Tuesday's report.

Martin Hickman
6 October 2015
old-bailey3.jpg

The Old Bailey, cityoflondon.gov.uk

A Sun reporter told a court he felt justified paying a police officer for information because Rupert Murdoch's top executive, Rebekah Brooks, made it clear "News International pays public officials."

Jamie Pyatt said he had watched a TV news report of Rebekah Brooks, then Sun editor, telling a Commons select committee in 2003: "We have paid police officers for information in the past."

Mr Pyatt who paid a Surrey PC £10,000 between 2000 and 2011 said that Mrs Brooks's comments reinforced his belief that he was acting properly.

"It made it clear to me that I was not doing anything wrong" Mr Pyatt, 52, told the Old Bailey.

He said he had never made a secret to the Sun that he was paying a Surrey police officer.

Mr Pyatt and Chris Pharo, the Sun's Assistant Editor (News), deny aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.

Giving evidence for the fourth day at his trial, Mr Pyatt told Court 13 that he had always been "open with the office" that he was paying the PC, known as Officer 2044.

Of Mrs Brooks's comments to MPs about paying police, Mr Pyatt said: "It made it clear to me that I was not doing anything wrong."

Mr Pyatt's QC, Richard Kovalevsky, asked for Mrs Brooks' comments to MPs on 11 March 2003 to be read to the jury – which Judge Charles Wide QC agreed, saying that doing so would not breach Parliamentary privilege.

The court heard that Mrs Brooks, who had just become Sun editor, told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee: "We have paid police officers for information in the past."

Asked if she would do it in the future, Mrs Brooks replied: "It depends," before Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World, explained NI only made payments in line with the law - to which the MP Chris Bryant said paying the police was always illegal.

Mr Pyatt said the message was clear: "News International pays public officials."

He told the court he had never tried to hide his payments to Officer 2044.

"It was not a secret," the reporter told Court 13.

"I was very open with the office."

He agreed he had paid Officer 2044 £250 cash for a police photo of the "Trophy Rapist" Tony Imiela and a further £250 for a police mugshot of the quadruple killer Daniel Gonzalez.

He also paid Officer 2044 for three witness statements made by female police officers to a rape investigation into two police constables.

"I think he had every right to pass that information to me," Mr Pyatt, a Sun reporter for 28 years, told the court.

He said it was not clear at the time he bought the statements that charges would be brought against the two police officers and Officer 2044 had been worried their behaviour would be "swept under the carpet." 

He said there was nothing wrong with being told the name of the rape complainant - or calling at her home after the case reached court.

Asked where he and Officer 2044 discussed stories, Mr Pyatt responded: "Usually in a pub."

He admitted he had "lied" in his defence statement in 2013 when he denied paying a police officer, saying he was trying to protect his source.

But he also agreed that he could have said he had paid a policeman without disclosing Officer 2044's identity. Mr Pyatt said he regretted the lie, but could not change it now.

The case continues.

 

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

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