Sun deputy editor Geoff Webster tells Old Bailey he did not know who reporter's sources were: 'It was just not done' - Press Gazette

Sun deputy editor Geoff Webster tells Old Bailey he did not know who reporter's sources were: 'It was just not done'

The Sun's chief reporter may have boasted of having "top-notch" or "gold-plated" contacts, but he would never have revealed the identity of his military source to bosses, a court heard.

Deputy editor Geoff Webster (pictured, Reuters), 55, is accused over the signing-off of payments for journalist John Kay's public official tipster who provided a string of stories, including information about princes William and Harry.

Between 2004 and 2012, Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan-Barber was paid a total of £100,000 for leaking details she came across during the course of her work, the Old Bailey has heard.

Giving evidence in his defence, Webster denied that 71-year-old Kay ever told him who his sources were or what they did because it was "just not done".

His lawyer Geoffrey Cox QC asked: "Did you have any cause to discuss with him or discuss with anybody else how Mr Kay had acquired his stories?"

Webster replied: "No, absolutely not. You just wouldn't quiz a reporter, never, not a chief reporter, on his stories. It was just not done."

Asked if sources were ever discussed in the office, he went on: "It just was not done. It was our code. Nobody would reveal their sources to another journalist. I have never, ever known it."

He added: "John would let you know a source was 'ace', 'top-notch', 'gold-plated', whatever. He would never, ever tell you he had a strictly average source."

Asked what he understood about who could be paid for stories, Webster said: "It was fairly generally accepted that a police officer should not be paid, but having said that it depends on the kind of information that police officer was prepared to give you.

"If it was operational details, clearly that would be wrong. After that it was very unclear who and in what circumstances could be paid, if you are referring to public officials."

Cox asked whether Webster had ever received any training or guidance on the subject, to which he replied: "No, we didn't have any. We had to rely on our instincts."

In February 2006, Webster and other senior staff were advised in an email that all cash payments had to have written approved from the then editor, Rebekah Brooks.

He told jurors that as far as he was aware, the only reason for this was an attempt to discourage the practice to save money.

Webster said he was never shown a 2009 letter from Brooks to the Press Complaints Commission on the subject and he was never told that cash payments were being deterred also in part to stop them being made to people who should not be paid.

Webster, Kay and executive editor Fergus Shanahan are charged with conspiring with each other and Jordan-Barber to commit misconduct in a public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012.

Webster faces a second count of conspiracy to commit misconduct with a serving officer in the armed forces between 3 and 6 November 2010.

They are in the dock with former Colour Sergeant John Hardy, who is charged with misconduct in a public office between 9 February 9 and 16 October 2008.

Claire Hardy is charged with aiding and abetting him and royal editor Duncan Larcombe is charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring Hardy in the offence.

Kay, of Golders Green, North London, Larcombe, 39, of Aylesford, Kent, Webster, of Goudhurst, Kent, Shanahan, 59, of Felsted, Essex, and John Hardy, 44, and Claire Hardy, 41, of Accrington, Lancashire, deny the charges against them.



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