Former immigration centre official tells court he leaked to The Sun because what was happening 'was beyond belief' - Press Gazette

Former immigration centre official tells court he leaked to The Sun because what was happening 'was beyond belief'

A former official at a Serco-run immigration centre told a court that bosses might have "perversely" wanted him to sell stories to The Sun to expose what was going on there. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Mark Blake is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of conspiring with Sun reporter Tom Wells to commit misconduct in a public office while he was employed as a detention custody officer at Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre.

The court has heard that between 2008 and 2010, Blake was paid nearly £8,000 for tips which resulted in ten stories in the tabloid newspaper.

Giving evidence in his defence, he told jurors that headlines such as "Gastrojail" and "We fund massages for foreign killers" highlighted problems at the centre.

He said he turned to The Sun because "what was happening in the centre was beyond belief" and he got to the point where he was "ready to explode".

On the attitude of bosses to what he regarded as whistleblowing, Blake said: "I always believed they knew it was me at Colnbrook. They knew it was Mark Blake. Maybe in some perverse way they wanted me to."

Cross-examining, prosecutor Stuart Biggs said: "You thought in some perverse way the directors at Colnbrook wanted you to sell stories to The Sun?"

Blake replied: "Yes. I thought it may be time for me to stop because they knew it was me. They would say 'Mark is this you?' and I would be asked to resign."

The defendant insisted he acted as a whistleblower when he was paid £800 for information about the menu at Colnbrook which led to the "Gastrojail" story.

He said: "At the time when the article was published, we were in the middle of the recession – one of the biggest recessions this country had ever seen – and people could not feed themselves."

Blake said he thought the story Wells produced had got his message across and "caused debate".

Biggs pressed: "Did he expose the things you thought needed exposing as a whistleblower?"

Blake replied: "Yes – more or less."

The prosecutor went on: "Did you ever think he is just making a story out of this?"

The defendant said: "No. The Sun has a specific way of reporting that we all know and love."

He denied he had approached The Sun rather than any another newspaper because it paid for stories.

Blake was also quizzed about his earlier evidence about the story "We fund massages for foreign killers" for which he was paid £500.

Biggs accused him of "a piece of embroidering" by saying guards referred to it as "Fifty Shades of Grey" when the book had not even been written at the time. The witness denied it, saying that was what the guards "should have" called it.

Wells and Blake are on trial at the Old Bailey alongside two other Sun reporters and ex-Daily Mirror reporter Graham Brough.

Blake, 43, from Slough, Wells, 34, of south east London, Brough, 54, of south west London, Sun journalist Neil Millard, 33, of south Croydon, and a Sun reporter who cannot be named, all deny conspiring to commit misconduct, while Blake additionally denies misconduct in a public office.



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