openDemocracyUK

The Sun trials - Wednesday 30th September 2015 - emails to Pharo mentioned 'coppers'

“Please can I get a £300 cash payment for my Chelsea copper contact...”

Martin Hickman
1 October 2015
 Youtube.

Chris Pharo, top left, is on trial. Credit: Youtube.

One of the Sun’s most senior executives today insisted he had no role in authorising cash payments for stories in the newspaper.

Giving evidence for the second day of his trial at the Old Bailey, Chris Pharo, the Sun's Assistant Editor (News), said the editor and deputy editor alone were responsible for approving payments to reporters’ contacts.

Mr Pharo – who denies he helped foster a “corrupt relationship” with a Surrey Police officer – said he had a multitude of other roles in addition to receiving reporter requests for payments.

Among them were co-ordinating reporters, rewriting stories, negotiating contracts with celebrities and contesting super-injunctions in court.

Cash payments to sources took up only a “tiny” amount of his time, he told the court. 

Even then, he told the jury, his only role was to “value” the stories for which payment requests were being made, before passing those requests up the managerial chain for authorisation.

Judge Charles Wide asked how Mr Pharo could be sure that an extra £500 cash he had agreed for a request by his co-accused, Thames Valley reporter Jamie Pyatt, would be approved at editor level.

Mr Pharo replied: "Very few were turned down when taken in to be authorised."

He reiterated that reporters would have gone over his head direct to the editor or deputy editor if he had tried to stop the payments system.

He assumed cash payments to sources were well known about by everyone at News International, including the proprietor – Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Pharo and Mr Pyatt deny aiding and abetting misconduct over payments of thousands of pounds to the Surrey constable, known in court as Officer 2044.

For the first time the jury in Court 13 of the Old Bailey were shown emails (not about Officer 2044) showing Mr Pharo responded to requests from reporters for cash payments to sources described as police officers.

One about a "wife-swapping" mayor came, according to the reporter who submitted the request, "from a good contact in Tetbury who's a cop."

Mr Pharo denied he approved the payment to ensure a police officer continued to supply the Sun with information.

“I'm being asked to price the story, to put a value of £1,000. That's my first thought at this juncture,” he told prosecutor Julian Christopher QC.

Mr Pharo complained: “You're taking me through an email from a decade ago and asking me to reconstruct my thought processes.”

The jury heard that a Sun reporter on another story asked: “Please can I get a £300 cash payment for my Chelsea copper contact...”

Mr Pharo told the court: "It's a tiny story on the bottom of page 17... it would not have been a very significant story that I would have taken in.”

He was not sure he would have read the reporter’s email.

Mr Pharo agreed he had a responsible job, which paid him £145,000 a year in 2010 – but he denied that authorised any payments.

Cross-examining, Mr Christopher, asked him: “Are you really saying you passed on all the information for the editor to assess each time?”

Mr Pharo replied: “My responsibilities were news editing the Sun... I would run the news desk, co-ordinate reporters, rewrite copy, I would do multiple contracts with celebrities, I would be in the High Court dealing with super injunctions...

“A tiny amount of my time was spent focusing on this."

Mr Pharo and Mr Pyatt deny aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. The case continues tomorrow.

 

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

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