'Over the top and ridiculous' says second Sun journalist cleared of 'handling' stolen mobile he never saw - Press Gazette

'Over the top and ridiculous' says second Sun journalist cleared of 'handling' stolen mobile he never saw

A Sun journalist cleared yesterday by the Met Police after being arrested for handing stolen goods in relation to a missing mobile phone has described his treatment as "totally over the top and ridiculous".

Chris Pollard, 31, was arrested in September 2012 following an early-morning raid involving nine police officers from the Tuleta computer-hacking inquiry on his London home. He spent nearly a year on police bail on suspicion of handling a stolen mobile phone.

His alleged crime dated back to 2009 when a member of the public called in to The Sun saying they had found a mobile phone in a nightclub.

The individual claimed there were texts and photos on the phone which suggested a married high-profile celebrity was involved in an affair and had behaved inappropriately on BBC premises. The phone later turned out to be reported stolen.

Pollard’s involvement in the story was to write a memo to The Sun newsdesk based on his telephone chat with the woman who had found the phone. Three years later this email memo was apparently turned up by News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee and formed the basis for his arrest.

Another Sun journalist met the woman, collected the phone and later handed it in to police. That individual remains on police bail.

On the morning Pollard was arrested, nine police officers searched his one-bedroom flat in a dawn raid (pre 7am) and carried out a comprehensive search which included rifling through the underwear drawer of his then girlfriend (now wife).

Police took away numerous computers, memory sticks, mobile phones and notepads (which have all yet to be returned) and took him to Lewisham Police station for several hours of questioning before releasing him on police bail.

Pollard told Press Gazette: “I have no problem with the police making arrests when they suspect wrongdoing. But the way they are doing it is totally over the top and ridiculous.

“You don’t need to send nine police officers at dawn to a journalist’s house because you suspect them of handling a stolen mobile phone.

“No-one else suspected of committing these sorts of crimes would get that sort or reaction. It must be costing them a fortune.

“Nine officers is the entire police force of somewhere like Bexhill, you can’t justify it.

“We are white collar workers, we are not going to do a bunk with the evidence and head over to Peru.

“I think operations Elveden [into payments to public officials] and Tuleta will turn out to be an almost total disaster for the police.”

Far from handling the stolen device, Pollard contends that he never even set eyes on it.

Pollard’s case is similar to that of Sun reporter Rhodri Phillips, who was arrested on 19 July 2012 by police on the Operation Tuleta  inquiry and cleared  last week.

Press Gazette understands that Phillips was asked to send a memo to the newsdesk about information found on an MP’s mobile phone which was said to have been found on a train in 2010. It later turned out to have been stolen.

Like Pollard, Phillips never ever saw the mobile he was accused of handling. And like Pollard, Phillips' arrest is also understood to stem from information being handed over to the police by News Corp's own Management and Standards Committee.

A separate civil claim for damages of £50,000 has been filed in connection with the stolen mobile involved in the Pollard case. The owner of the phone has sought damages for breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

Pollard is the 12th journalist out of 59 arrested in the UK over the last two years to be cleared. So far 24 have been charged and the others remain on police bail.
Some 13 Sun journalists have been charged with making illegal payments to public officials as a result of the Elveden Inquiry. There have been no charges brought as yet under Tuleta.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette