Sun associate editor Trevor Kavanagh has condemned “heavy-handed cops, gung-ho prosecutors and our thin-skinned political rulers” for the prosecution of his colleague Clodagh Hartley.
Hartley was cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in pubic office last week after what Kavanagh describes as “a crippling sentence of two years, six months and a day on police and court bail”.
Kavanagh has noted that seven journalists have now been tried under the “catch-all” charge of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office after payments were made to public officials.
Only one has been convicted (a former reporter for the News of the World who cannot be named for legal reasons). But he said they are likely to appeal.
Kavanagh said: “Their alleged crimes amount to writing or paying for stories the authorities wanted kept under wraps.
“The cost to taxpayers is stupendous…The cost in wrecked private and professional lives is beyond calculation.
“And for what? The stories were all true. They were stood up. Nobody in the prison service, health service or HM Treasury ever complained to the police or to the newspapers involved. There were no leak inquiries.”
The recent trials of journalists for payments to public officials have arisen because of evidence volunteered to police by News Corp’s Management and Standard’s Commitee in the wake of the hacking scandal.
Kavanagh said: “Why, if such alleged conspiracies were so serious, did newly zealous prosecutors not act much sooner?
“Why didn’t they look for evidence BEFORE it was handed to them on a plate?
“Was there perhaps a link with The Sun’s decision to stop supporting Labour? Or the bombshell revelations about MPs’ expenses?
“And why are public officials so darned special?
“Why is it a jailing offence, rather than a breach of employment contract, to brief the media without a line manager’s consent?”