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May 22, 2015updated 29 May 2015 1:07pm

Sun’s Anthony France guilty of misconduct in public office offence after paper paid policeman £22k for stories

By PA Mediapoint

A Sun journalist has been found guilty of paying a police officer for stories.

Sun crime reporter Anthony France, 41, from Watford, cultivated a "corrupt relationship" with PC Timothy Edwards over four years, his trial at the Old Bailey heard.

While working at Heathrow Airport in SO15 counter-terrorism command, PC Edwards, 49, sold 38 stories and titbits of information to the journalist in exchange for more than £22,000.

France's mother burst into tears as he left the dock after being found guilty of aiding and abetting Pc Edwards to commit misconduct in a public office between March 2008 and July 2011.

He will be sentenced on 29 May at 10am.

Before adjourning for sentencing, Judge Timothy Pontius said: "I emphasise very firmly that the fact I'm releasing you on bail should not serve as any sort of indication of what the sentence will be."

The judge said he would "keep an open mind" until he heard representations from his lawyer.

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The court heard that Edwards passed on details ranging from airline pilots being breathalysed to a drunken model flying into a rage after "catching her boyfriend romping with a woman next to him".

But France denied wrongdoing, telling jurors he had never been advised by anyone at the Sun that paying a police officer – or any public official – might be against the law.

Asked what he would have done if he thought what he was doing might be illegal, he said: "I would never have got involved with it. I would have told him to get lost. I'm a man of good character not involved in crime."

The court heard that Edwards was "given" to France as a source. After they met at a pub in 2008, he was told by a colleague "I've spoken to a lawyer and it's fine," he said.

France also told jurors of his difficulties working for a "homophobic bully" in the office who stripped him of his crime reporter title in 2010.

The jury in France's trial was not told that Edwards pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and was jailed for two years in 2014.

France was the first journalist to stand trial for paying a public official since the Director of Public Prosecutions carried out a root-and-branch review of the controversial Operation Elveden cases.

He is the first of three journalists left to stand trial after DPP Alison Saunders announced in April that the Crown Prosecution Service was ditching nine out of 12 outstanding cases.

The move came after the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of ex-News of the World crime reporter Lucy Panton and gave fellow NoW reporter Ryan Sabey leave to appeal – the only others to be found guilty following a trial.

France's legal team indicated it was too soon to say whether he would launch an appeal.

The jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting him.

France is now the only conviction after trial of a journalist for the crime misconduct in public office prosecuted under Operation Elveden which stands.

Former Sunday Mirror journalist Dan Evans was convicted after admitting the offence.

Some 13 journalists have been found not guilty by juries.

The Crown Prosecution Service indicated after its review that it was treated cases involving police officers more seriously than those involving other public officials.

France's friends and colleagues who supported him throughout the trial fell silent as the guilty verdict was delivered by the jury foreman.

Afterwards, detective chief superintendent Gordon Briggs, who leads Operation Elveden, said: "France and Edwards were in a long-term corrupt relationship.

"Edwards was not a whistleblower. He obtained confidential information in the course of his duties and leaked it for financial gain.

"Corrupt relationships of this kind undermine confidence in the police service and harm the public interest. Officers found guilty of acting in this way merit criminal sanction.

"Journalists who encourage or aid and abet their corrupt actions and do so without reasonable excuse or justification are equally culpable."

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