Gavin Millar QC says journalist trials 'make no sense to jurors' who are asking 'what on earth is the criminality?' - Press Gazette

Gavin Millar QC says journalist trials 'make no sense to jurors' who are asking 'what on earth is the criminality?'

The Sun has questioned why four journalists accused of paying public officials for stories should face a retrial when hundreds of returning jihadi fighters are not being prosecuted.
And the paper notes today that the trial judge praised Sun head of news Chris Pharo, 45, ex-deputy news editor Ben O’Driscoll, 38, reporter Jamie Pyatt, 51, and former managing editor Graham Dudman, 51 for acting with “great dignity throughout” the trial. It estimates that the trial has cost the taxpaper £3m, with a further £2m in defence costs.
After a 14-week trial and 49 hours of deliberations the jury could not decide whether the four had conspired to commit misconduct in a public office by paying for stories. Former Sun reporter John Troup and picture editor John Edwards were found not guilty of the same offence,
The Met Police has spent at least £11.3m investigating payments by journalists to public officials under Operation Elveden. So far five Sun journalist have been cleared, five are to face retrials.
There has been one conviction for a journalist under the offence of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public, a former News of the World reporter who cannot be named for legal reasons.
QC Gavin Millar explained why he thinks the prosecution of journalists for this offence is unjust. 
He told The Sun: “These are working journalists who are doing their job, and they are being prosecuted for doing their job in circumstances where there is no personal gain to them.
“Jurors trying those cases will have asked themselves, what on earth is the criminality? Why are we dealing with this in a lengthy, expensive trial?
“It doesn’t make sense to jurors. That’s becoming apparent from the trend that we are seeing — juries are not convicting defendants — but huge amounts of money are being spent.
"Journalists are spending years on bail, with long trials and hung juries and then another long trial. It’s a nightmare.”
Conservative MP Nick de Bois told The Sun: “The CPS has to be comfortable there is at least a 50 per cent chance of conviction.
“I’m surprised they are going ahead once again, given the outcome of this trial and particularly given the cost to the taxpayer.”
Another Conservative MP, Tracey Crouch, said: " I don’t think the CPS is looking at the public interest — it seems to be pursuing a vendetta”
The Sun today reported that according to a Freedom of Information Act release, 40 out of an estimated 250 jihadi fighters returning from Syria have been charged with offences.
Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh wrote: "The world is in mourning for the French journalists murdered by jihadists in an attack on free speech.
"Here, ministers struggle to find the money to protect citizens against a copycat bloodbath.
"Meanwhile, police are spending millions pursuing journalists through the courts. Hundreds of police have been dragged off serious crime and huge sums drained.
"Six trials so far have ended in acquittals or hung juries.
"Yesterday another trial ground to a halt as a distressed jury failed to convict. The CPS ordered a costly retrial.
"By the time this ends, some defendants will have spent five Christmases awaiting justice.
"They felt like terrorists as police raided their homes at dawn, while real terrorists were busy plotting real atrocities.
"Their lives are on hold. Their physical and mental health is under strain. Their families are living in purgatory.
"The CPS has cast a shadow over Britain’s fabled reputation for free speech and a free press.
"Now, it risks bringing our whole system of justice into disrepute."



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette