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  1. Media Law
November 11, 2016updated 14 Nov 2016 8:37am

New law needed to protect journalists’ sources after conviction of 32 under Operation Elveden

By Gustaf Kilander

A charity for whistleblowers has called for the protection of sources to be made a statutory right after 32 were convicted under Operation Elveden.

The call comes after Press Gazette today names for the first time all the sources convicted after News Corp and Trinity Mirror shared emails with police detailing payments made by their companies to public officials.

Some 34 journalists were arrested and/or charged on suspicion of making payments to public officials. But no convictions of journalists were secured by police at trial after courts ruled that none of the disclosures harmed the public interest.

Of the sources convicted under Operation Elveden, there were 12 police officers, nine prison workers, four hospital workers, two press officers and one MoD pharmacy assistant. The remaining four were relatives of the public officials.

Most of the sources lost their jobs and served time in prison. Many faced crippling legal costs.

Last month Daily Mirror source and former Belmarsh Prison officer Robert Norman lost his appeal against conviction.

The legal judgment detailed how the publishers of The Sun and Mirror conducted their own searches of email databases and then handed to the police material which incriminated journalists and their sources. In both cases, cooperation was apparently intended to stave off possible corporate prosecutions.

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Lawyers for the publishers, who have declined to comment, may also have felt that co-operation would stave off forced disclosure orders being made by police.

Some 30 of the convicted sources provided information to journalists working for The Sun or News of the World. Ten of the sources also provided information to journalists working for papers owned by Trinity Mirror.

Cathy James, chief executive of the whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, said: “Operation Elveden marked a low point in the protection of journalists sources in the UK.

“While the practice of selling public interest information is not something we would condone, the culture in so many newsrooms in the past was such that this was entirely acceptable.

“Those invited to trade information for cash were in all likelihood also told that they would be a protected source and that their identity would remain confidential.

“This promise was broken without reference to the impact this would have on the trust we all place on journalists and the media.  When so much of the work done by journalists is based on trust, we must ensure that something like this never happens again – this is why we have always supported the Press Gazette’s Save our Sources campaign.

“It’s high time the Government put this high on the agenda and made protection of journalist sources a statutory right.”

Executive director of the Society of Editors Bob Satchwell said: “There needs to be greater protection in the law for all journalistic activity.

“There needs to be a public interest defence in law and authorities such as the police and Crown Prosecution Service need to think twice whenever impinging on the work of journalists in exposing wrongdoing.”

The convicted sources:

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn was jailed for 15 months in February 2013. Casburn called up the News of the World newsdesk in 2010 with information about Met Police investigations into phone-hacking, concerned about the resources being used. Casburn claimed she did not ask for money – and was not paid – but a reporter on the newspaper wrote a note that she “wanted to sell inside information”.

PC Alan Tierney was jailed for 10 months in March 2013. The former Surrey Police PC was paid £1,250 for details about the arrests of Sue Terry and Sue Poole – the mother and mother-in-law of footballer John Terry – and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to The Sun in 2009. He admitted the offences, the BBC reported.

PC Paul Flattley was jailed for two years in March 2013. Described as a police officer who “developed an eye for celebrity stories”, Flattley passed on information held by the Met on 39 occasions – resulting in 19 stories – to The Sun, The Independent reported. He pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between 2008 and 2011, over payments totalling £8,000.

Richard Trunkfield was jailed for 16 months in March 2013. Trunkfield, a Woodhill prison worker, pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between 2 March and 30 April 2010, according to the BBC. He sold details about one of James Bulger’s killers, Jon Venables, to The Sun.

Sgt James Bowes was jailed for 10 months in May 2013. The Sussex Police sergeant contacted The Sun and News of the World on three occasions to sell stories, according to the BBC. He was paid £500 for a story sold to Sun reporter Vince Soodin about a fox attack in June 2010.

Tracy Bell was given a nine-month sentence suspended for two years in November 2013. Bell, a pharmacy assistant from Sandhurst, admitted to selling five stories to The Sun for £1,250 between 2005 and 2006.

Alan Ostler was given a seven-month sentence and was suspended for 18 months in January 2014. The Broadmoor employee pleaded guilty to releasing information about a patient who wanted gender reassignment surgery from the NHS while in custody. He provided information to The Sun and Daily Mirror between June and July 2008, according to the CPS.

PC Timothy Edwards was jailed for two years in June 2014. Part of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, Edwards was paid more than £22,000 by The Sun for 38 stories. He was jailed for two years, rather than three, because he pleaded guilty.

DC Sam Azeouelous was jailed for 14 months in July 2014. The former Met Police detective constable pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between 2006 and 2010. According to the Met, he acted as a “paid for informant” for The Sun after establishing “close links” with journalists on a football team he played for.

Darren Jennings was sentenced to 18 months in July 2014. According to the website Crime & Justice, the former Wiltshire Police officer was found guilty of passing on information to The Sun about a colleague facing criminal proceedings in 2010. The trial heard that he asked the newspaper for £10,000, but there was no evidence of a payment being made.

PC Thomas Ridgeway was jailed for 12 months in August 2014. According to the BBC, Ridgeway sold two stories to The Sun through his mother, Sandra Ridgeway. The first story, about the attempted suicide of an actor, resulted in a £1,600 payment, split between the pair. The second, which earned £1,000, was about the alleged sexual activity of off-duty police officers.

Sandra Ridgeway was given an 18-week sentence, suspended for 26 weeks, in August 2014.

PCSO Paul Randall was given a five-month sentence, suspended for two years, in September 2014. The former Met officer admitted to being paid £150 after he informed The Sun that model Naomi Campbell had attended a police station in Westminster in 2006.

Lee Brockhouse, an officer at HMP Swaleside prison Kent, was jailed for 18 months in December 2014. Between 23 April 2007 and 27 October 2009, The Sun paid £1,750 to Brockhouse for the unauthorised disclosure of information to reporter Nick Parker. Brockhouse also provided stories for the People newspaper, who paid him £900.

Bettina Jordan-Barber was sentenced to 12 months in January 2015. The Ministry of Defence press officer was paid £100,000 for stories sold to The Sun. The “number one military contact” of chief reporter John Kay, she admitted conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office between January 2004 and January 2012.

David Hobbs was given an four-month sentence, suspended for two years, in February 2015. According to the BBC, Prison officer Hobbs admitted to selling information to The Sun for £750 about James Bulger killer Jon Venables. The information did not result in a story.

Jonathan Hall was given an eight-month suspended sentence in February 2015. Hall, an HMRC press officer, made £17,475 from selling stories, including details of the 2010 Budget, to The Sun. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between 2008 and 2011

PC Simon Quinn was jailed for 18 months in April 2015. The BBC reported that Quinn, who resigned from Surrey Police in 2011, was paid at least £7,000 for stories by The Sun over a ten-year period. Quinn pleaded guilty to misconduct between 2000 and 2011, including leaking details of the investigation into the disappearance of Milly Dowler.

Kenneth Hall was jailed for two years in June 2015. The Broadmoor nurse admitted selling stories to the News of the World and Mirror newspapers between 2002 and 2004. He also admitted to forging documents to beef up his stories.

Karen Hall, the wife of Kenneth Hall, was given a five-month jail sentence, suspended for one year, in April 2015. She pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the offence by allowing money she knew her husband was getting by selling stories to go into her account..

Reggie Nunkoo was jailed for 10 months in May 2015. The former Pentonville prison employee admitted being paid £1,650 for stories – including one about singer George Michael – by The Sun and Daily Mirror, according to the BBC.

PC Rosemary Collier was given a four-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, in May 2015. The former Met Police call handler admitted to being paid £700 for details of a confidential briefing note about potential terrorist attacks, the BBC reported.

Robert Norman was sentenced to 20 months in June 2015. Norman, a union rep at Belmarsh prison, was paid £10,000 for 40 story tips to reporter Stephen Moyes between 2006 and 2011, when Moyes worked at the News of the World and the Daily Mirror.

Alan Hagan was jailed for 20 months in June 2015. According to the Met Police, Hagan was an employee at Ashworth Hospital, a high security facility, who sold information about a patient to the News of the World in January 2008. Hagan was paid £1,000 by the newspaper. The Met said Hagan took a covert camera into the hospital and was “in negotiations with the newspaper regarding a £50k payment for the images”.

Robert Neave, a former healthcare assistant at Broadmoor Hospital, was jailed for eight months in November 2015. Neave was paid £7,125 for 14 tips to the sun.

Former prison officer Scott Chapman was paid £40,000 for providing information for 46 stories to The Sun, News Of The World, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday. He admitted to misconduct in public office between 1 March 2010 and June 2011. Chapman sold details about James Bulger’s killer, Jon Venables. He was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment in December 2014.

Lynn Gaffney was accused of allowing her partner, Scott Chapman, to use her bank account to receive payments from tabloid newspapers. Her conviction was subsequently quashed.

Grant Pizzey, a former prison officer from top security HMP Belmarsh was found guilty of leaking stories about celebrity inmates to the Daily Mirror over six years. He was paid almost £20,000. He was jailed for two years in November 2015.

Desra Reilly, wife of Grant Pizzey, was accused of aiding and abetting him. She was jailed for 12 months.

Prison guard Mark Alexander was sentenced to 10 months behind bars in November 2015 after selling tips to Daily Mirror reporter Greig Box Turnbull 11 times and on one occasion receiving £400 from the Sun for a story about the mother of Baby P in HMP Holloway.

Amanda Watts, handed over five pieces of information to Sun reporters which resulted in five stories for which she was paid £2,100 by News International. She was jailed for 12 months in November 2015.

Mark Blake, 42, detention custody officer, was paid nearly £8,000 for tips about the Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre. He pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between January 2008 and December 2010. He was given  a 15 month suspended sentence.

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