openDemocracyUK

The Sun trials: Wednesday 7th October (part 2): "officer 2044 was corrupt"

openDemocracy has 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 part 2 of Wednesday's report.

Martin Hickman
8 October 2015
police 2nd trial.jpg

Flickr/ TheEssexTech. Some rights reserved.Jurors at the Sun corruption trial should avoid "distractions" and focus on the key issue ­– the misconduct of Surrey police officer 2044, the Crown urged today.

Making his closing speech, Julian Christopher QC, said the trial was not an investigation into other people who had or who had not been prosecuted over cash payments to public officials.

He added: “This is a not a case about stories in the newspaper; it's about misconduct of a police officer.”

He told the Old Bailey that Officer 2044, first a constable then a detective constable, had been guilty of a "gross breach of trust” in acting as Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt’s “paid mole” in Surrey Police, accessing records, phoning the journalist with juicy pieces of information and providing access to photos that put the Sun “one step ahead of its rivals.”

He said the jury had to consider whether Officer 2044 had been guilty of misconduct so serious as to amount to a breach of the public’s trust and whether the defendants – Mr Pyatt and the Sun’s news head Chris Pharo – had encouraged him by paying him about £10,000

As to whether it was misconduct, Mr Christopher said: “Police officers are not allowed to leak information to the press for money.”

As to whether it was so bad as to breach the public’s trust, the QC said: "The prosecution suggest that plainly it was.” 

Officer 2044 had “abused” the trust placed in him by his employers, by his colleagues, by victims of crime, and by witnesses who had provided statements, and by the general public at large – “because we don’t expect our police officers to have a nice little earner on the side as an informant to a newspaper.”

Mr Christopher read out an extract of the statement of a rape complainant who was visited at home by two Sun reporters after Officer 2044 passed her name to Mr Pyatt. 

The rape complainant, who had alleged she had been raped by two police officers, had said in the statement: “This was a very difficult and emotional time and I was terrified my name would be put in the papers." 

She had just moved and only a few officers knew of her address. She said: "I had been reassured by the police that my address was safe... I couldn't understand how the man and the woman from the Sun had found my address. It made me really scared."

Mr Christopher said Officer 2044 was "corrupt”, although he was using that in a general way rather as a legal term.

“We are dealing with payments of cash of the brown envelope sort, handed over not at work, but in a pub round the corner, in return for secret activity outside of the rules."

Of Mr Pyatt, Mr Christopher said: “You may think that Mr Pyatt knew everything we know now. He knew all the facts I have suggested.

“He knew it was something like £10,000. He knew Officer 2044 was acting effectively as an undercover researcher and informant paid by the Sun – and he knew that Officer 2044 was not allowed to do that.”

He suggested that Mr Pyatt’s testimony could not be trusted for six reasons, among them his readiness to invent accounts for obtaining payment for sources (“He seems to have no hesitation at all in making up the facts when it suits him.”)

Another was Mr Pyatt’s lie in his police interview (before Officer 2044 was traced) that: "For a start off I have not paid any police officers for information...". That lie, Mr Christopher told jurors, was “designed, you may think, to save his own skin rather than to protect Officer 2044.”

Turning to Mr Pharo, the Sun’s Assistant Editor (News), Mr Christopher said that as news editor he had to go into the editorial conference “knowing as much as possible about tomorrow's stories.”

“You may think as head of the news desk he must know the sources, or type of sources at his reporters' disposal.”

In emails about other journalists asking for cash to pay police officers for information, Mr Pharo, the QC said, was “showing himself entirely unconcerned about their status."

Quoting one email, a reporter had told Mr Pharo of his source: “She is very nervous, Chris, but very well placed in the Met, so I am just trying to keep her on side” – to which Mr Pharo responded: “Generate it please, Charlotte.”

The QC told the jury that emails between Mr Pharo and Mr Pyatt showed that they both wanted to encourage Officer 2044 to continue supplying information to the paper.

He said: “Mr Pharo may not have known his name...but can there be any doubt that what Mr Pyatt was referring to was a police officer contact in Surrey?”

“No-one batted an eyelid about paying police officers for misconduct.”

The case continues.

 

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

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