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April 24, 2015updated 27 Apr 2015 4:23pm

Reporter’s three-year ordeal ‘for writing story about a fox’

By William Turvill

The Sun's online news editor Vince Soodin has has condemned the Met Police for turning Operation Elveden into "a probe into unauthorised leaks to journalists – whether they were paid for or not". (Picture: PA)

Soodin, along with former News of the World reporter Lucy Panton, was officially cleared at the Old Bailey yesterday – nearly three years after his initial arrest.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Soodin, 40, said Operation Elveden has been "pursued without any sense of proportion" by the Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders – who he said "must resign".

On his 7 August 2012 arrest, Soodin wrote: "I was set to go the London Olympics; instead I was woken – at 6.06am – by my doorbell. I was confronted by eight police officers; detectives stormed past me into my bedroom, waking my girlfriend, who was unaware I had gone to the front door, shouting 'Met Police' before I was allowed to explain to her what was happening. We were in shock.

"Officers bagged up our computers. Seized our belongings. They went through our clothes and underwear, personal diaries, everything. Almost anything connected to my job was tagged and taken. They still have my Sun contract of employment – as though this is damning evidence that I am a criminal.

"Detectives stood over us as we dressed. Then I was taken away from my girlfriend and thrown into a cell at a north London police station before being questioned by two detectives."

Soodin was charged in August 2013 and put on trial in September 2014.

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Until last Friday, when the CPS announced it was dropping cases against him and eight other journalists, Soodin was set for a retrial after an Old Bailey jury was unable to reach a verdict last year.

Soodin said that the prosecution "conceded the payment to the police officer was not the issue, instead claiming a conspiracy between myself and the officer to leak information – a chilling development for investigative journalism in Britain".

Explaining his alleged crime, Soodin said: "I reported how a fox attacked a three-year-old child at a Brighton school in June 2010 – just days after baby twins were mauled by a fox in their east London home. My story exposed a public threat, as covered by the Editors’ Code of conduct, and how the school allowed the fox to live on its grounds despite being warned about the animal. A police officer who used a fake name and email address sent the unsolicited tip to The Sun. I answered the message, stood up the story and the tipster – who I never met – was paid £500.

"Weeks later the same source, without encouragement, told us that serial killer Peter Tobin’s home was to be dug up and a clairvoyant may have helped detectives with the inquiry. This time the contact was not paid. No one – including Sussex Police – complained about the articles or asked how The Sun learnt of the stories at the time."

He added: "Arrested, held on bail for over two-and-half years and tried at the Old Bailey after writing a story about a fox. To quote a former Sun columnist: 'You could not make it up.'

"Set alongside the Lord Janner scandal and February’s ludicrous prosecution of a doctor – on charges of female genital mutilation – who had stitched up a woman bleeding after childbirth, Operation Elveden has destroyed confidence in the Crown Prosecution Service under Alison Saunders. There is only one proper course of action now. She must resign."

 

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