Crowdfunding appeal pays legal fees for convicted Sun reporter after News UK refusal to 'do the right thing' - Press Gazette

Crowdfunding appeal pays legal fees for convicted Sun reporter after News UK refusal to 'do the right thing'

A crowdfunding appeal yesterday took just a few hours to raise more than £3,000 in legal fees for convicted Sun reporter Anthony France.

France was convicted by a jury in May of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office after The Sun paid a police officer more than £22,000 for stories.

The crime reporter avoided jail after judge Timothy Pontius praised his good character. And the judge made clear he felt his employer News UK should pay prosecution costs of £34,610 – because he said it was responsible for the “structure and system” under which France worked.

France’s lawyer Adrian Keeling QC said: “The hope was that News International, who have funded his legal representation, would stand behind him and pay those costs on his behalf.

"It would have sent a very strong message that they were doing the right thing, especially for an organisation that earns the kind of money they do."

Yesterday morning, News UK refused to pay those costs – leaving France himself to foot the bill. Judge Pontius said he should pay 10 per cent of the sum.

Around lunchtime yesterday, journalist Dennis Rice launched an appeal on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise France's legal costs.

Launching it, he said: "I am hoping that as friends and supporters of Anthony, and other journalists still facing trials, we will band together and send a 'strong message' that we deplore this lack of support and respect for Anthony.

"Aside from the fact that I'm not sure that he has the money to pay, coverage of what we will doing will show Anthony that he is not alone and that as he tried to re-build his life he always has friends he can call on."

The total was reached within six hours and as of this morning it had exceeded its targeted by more than £1,000.

More than 75 people made contributions including many journalists.

Rice said: "On behalf of Anthony I want to thank everyone who contributed, especially those for whom £5, £10 or £20 meant giving up a considerable portion of their income. It has been a difficult day but this has really lifted Anthony and we sincerely hope that News UK sees this support."

France said: "Thank you Dennis Rice, Press Gazette, its readers and Fleet Street for the spontaneous act of generosity yesterday.

"Together you raised £3,461 to pay the ten per cent of my prosecution costs not being picked up by the taxpayer.  

"I am grateful you then surpassed the figure by hundreds more within hours of me walking out of the Old Bailey feeling pretty crap.

"Crowdfunding, Facebook and Twitter has a moral compass. 

"Despite five years of sustained attack, journalists remain this country's fourth emergency service who people can turn to in their hour of need. That makes my heart beat faster with pride."



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette