A prison service “whistleblower” paid for stories by the Daily Mirror was today jailed for 20 months after his identity was revealed to the Met Police.
The Old Bailey heard that Robert Norman, 54, was paid more than £10,000 for 40 story tips to reporter Stephen Moyes between April 2006 and May 2011.
This covered the time Moyes worked for the Daily Mirror and the News of the World.
Press Gazette understands that he was convicted after confidential emails were released by Daily Mirror parent company Trinity Mirror (HQ pictured) to the Met Police.
Trinity Mirror today declined to comment.
Moyes was himself questioned and initially charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. But the charge against Moyes was dropped after the Crown Prosecution Service conducted a review in April and decided it would not be in the public interest to proceed against him.
Press Gazette understands that Norman approached the Mirror in his capacity as a union rep at Belmarsh prison because he had no faith in the prison’s internal whistleblowing procedure.
He made contact with Moyes after calling the main switchboard number.
In evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 former Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace said that “on occasion we have paid public sector employees (connected with the health and prison services) for information about prisoners or prison conditions, or conditions in health facilities".
Moyes was not called to give evidence at Norman’s trial.
But speaking to Press Gazette before the trial began, Moyes said: “I am dismayed that Robert Norman – a man I knew to be a senior union rep for the Prison Officers Association, and a whistleblower – is still going to trial.
“From 2006 when he rang the Daily Mirror after exhausting negotiations with the prison Governor and local MPs, he was hell-bent on highlighting mismanagement, waste of taxpayers' funds, threats to his members, and stories that were massively in the public interest.
“Without him a number of important security and safety exposés would have been hushed up – by the same negligent prison management who were responsible for them.
“His concerns – of sweeping staff cuts at Belmarsh when they were at full capacity, threatening the lives of warders, inmates, and the general public – were backed up by reports and statistics from the independent prison inspector and charities such as the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“I didn't consider his union role to be any different from the full-time reps I spent so much time with in my years working on a Trinity Mirror weekly paper covering Heathrow – raising public awareness of workers' rights and sticking one over management if necessary.”
Norman, 54, was convicted of committing misconduct in a public office while working at HMP Belmarsh, south London, which was home to a number of high-profile prisoners.
In his defence, Norman, of Milton Street, Swanscombe, denied wrongdoing and told jurors he wanted to highlight problems at the prison in the public interest.
He claimed the case of a Roman Catholic chaplain having affairs with inmates was being "swept under the carpet" by authorities before he told Moyes about it.
The court heard that Norman first phoned the Daily Mirror in 2006 and gave Moyes a story about staff cuts at the prison, for which he was paid £400.
The exclusive story described Belmarsh as a "terror prison" and ran alongside a photograph of one of its most notorious prisoners, "hate preacher" Abu Hamza, the court heard.
Cheques for the stories were made out to Norman's son Daniel and the money was then transferred into Norman's account, the court was told.
Moyes said that all his stories were confirmed before publication by the Ministry of Justice press office.
He said: “There was never a complaint or question mark against them.”
Moyes said: “Every national newspaper I've worked on encourages readers to ring in with 'We Pay For Stories' adverts each day. And they choose to make payments in a fully transparent way – from their bank direct to the source's account – in keeping with the papers' policy of paying public officials for stories that are in the public interest.”
Stories Moyes worked on included an assassination plot against Belmarsh Governor Phil Wragg by Somali gangsters in 2001. Another story was about a prison officer who was sacked after an investigation into claims he reduced married women colleagues to therapy and counselling after spreading malicious gossip about fictitious sexual relationships he was having with them.
Norman is believed to be the first newspaper source convicted under Operation Elveden after information was supplied by Trinity Mirror.
A number of public employees have been jailed as a result of information supplied to police by Sun parent company News Corp.