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October 25, 2013

Sun journalists told Mockridge of betrayal at arrest for doing their jobs

By Dominic Ponsford

Sun journalists have spoken of their sense of betrayal at facing arrest and imprisonment for carrying out what they said was company policy.

At least 23 Sun journalists have been arrested by police investigating illegal payments and computer-hacking.

Today investigative journalism website Exaro released details of a meeting held between then chief executive of News International (now News UK) Tom Mockridge and arrested journalists in November last year.

Mockridge took over as News International chief executive in July 2011 and left the company in December 2012. He was strongly supportive of journalists in the meeting, talking about "bloody lawyers" and airing his evident frustration at the way that News Corp had adopted a policy of providing evidence to police which had led to the arrest of staff.

One journalist told Mockridge: “Although I worked for a newspaper that advertises, ‘we pay cash for stories’, I was given no legal training.

“It’s not in my law books that I had as a journalist, it wasn’t in my three-year course.”

Mockridge told journalists that if they are convicted of criminal offences it was not “a given” that they would be sacked, but that they would face disciplinary action on a case by case basis.

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This raised the question for one staffer about the extent to which he could still be critical about his employer in court, knowing that the company would have the power afterwards to either sack those who have been arrested or keep them on.

Tom Mockridge (Reuters)

Mockridge said: “In the end the company …it’s big enough , it can look after itself.”

Another Sun journalist said that ordinary contacts, “I’m not talking about people accepting money”,…have been "outed to the ‘you-know-whats’ over there" [presumably the police].

They said: “That…is one of the greatest acts of treachery in journalistic history”.

Mockridge said: “You ask me personally, I’d agree with you…And that sticks in my craw. But…it’s a decision the News Corporation Company as made.”

Arrested Sun journalists feel they have been treated unfairly because of the assistance which News Corp has given to police.

 

Mockridge said over other titles: “They might have done a better job with managing their emails.”

Trinity Mirror is also under investigation for phone-hacking.

Mockridge said the company hadn’t taken the Trinity Mirror approach of “we’re not conceding anything here”.

He added: “Right or wrong, we can’t change that now.”

Mockridge said later in the hour-long meeting: “The MSC was set up with the express purpose to co-operate with the police.

“The company made its decision to be open – to go through all the files. And, effectively, had computer people good enough to dig out the old emails, meaning that stuff’s been discovered and exposed that, I doubt, at Trinity Mirror probably ever will be, and the Mail probably never will be.

“It’s not because they’ve done anything deliberate, they just didn’t have the systems that backed to hold the stuff together.”

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