News UK is set to return to the Old Bailey tomorrow to explain why it has refused to pay the prosecution costs from the trial of Sun reporter Anthony France.
The crime reporter was convicted of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office in May after The Sun paid police officer Timothy Edwards more than £22,000 for story tips.
France avoided a prison term in view of what Judge Timothy Pontius described as his “hitherto unblemished character”. He said France was a “essentially a decent man of solid integrity”.
News UK paid France’s defence costs and he continues to be a paid employee.
But at a sentencing hearing on 29 May it indicated that it would not pay prosecution costs, estimated at £35,000.
The judge indicated that he felt News UK should pay the costs and said there would be a further hearing if the publisher refused to do so.
The News UK position has not changed, so that hearing is set to take place at the Old Bailey tomorrow morning.
Judge Pontius said at the Old Bailey in May: “I think the defendant’s employer bears a measure of responsibility for the structure and system under which Mr France worked.”
The court heard that France has savings of £4,000 and that his family had offered to pay him a loan of £10,000 as a contribution towards legal fees.
But the judge said: “I see no reason why they should face financial hardship, they are entirely innocent of any blame. The same can’t be said for News International.”
In his judgment he said to France: “There is no good reason why the taxpayer should foot the whole of the prosecution’s bill for bringing you before the court.
“I shall therefore make an order that you pay the full prosecution costs but I do so on the assumption that, having had the cost of your representation by leading and junior counsel and solicitors paid by News International, they will also pay my costs order.
“If that turns out not to be the case then the matter can be relisted so that I can vary the order to a sum more fairly adjusted to your personal circumstances.”
France’s barrister said during mitigation that the evidence was “peppered with references” to other people at The Sun involved with making payments to public officials and police officers.
He added: “If there was a wrong culture [at The Sun] it was not of Mr France’s making. It was created by others for their benefit and sustained by others for their benefit.”
He said that the “whole management structure” of The Sun was involved in setting that culture.
He noted that PC Edwards was a paid Sun source before he was given to France by a senior colleague.
Defence barrister Adrian Keeling QC said that France “played his part” but was not responsible for the culture at The Sun.
He said: “There’s a sense that Mr France, who held the most junior full-time job it's possible to hold at The Sun, now stands to be punished for a system that was not of his creation of which he personally stood to gain very little.”