A Sun reporter on trial for paying three public officials for tips told jurors today that his newsdesk "knew exactly" who his sources were even before he first spoke to them.
Tom Wells, 34, is accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office with Mark Blake who was allegedly paid nearly £8,000 by The Sun while employed by Serco at Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre.
He is also charged over his dealings with prison officers Richard Trunkfield and Scott Chapman who both allegedly sold information about James Bulger killer Jon Venables while he was behind bars in 2010 and 2011.
Giving evidence in his defence, Wells told jurors he was not given any training at all about whether it might be a crime to pay a public official for stories.
Had he known, he said he "would not have gone anywhere near it", adding: "I'm not the type of person who ever seeks to break the law – I've never even had a speeding ticket."
Wells said he had been "completely transparent" about who his sources were when requesting payments for them.
But no-one at The Sun – whether they be editors, news desk or lawyers – had ever told him that paying a public official might be a crime, he said.
Wells said that his newsdesk was aware from the start who Blake, Trunkfield and Chapman were because they were the point of contact with the officials when they first rang the newspaper.
He told the jury: "In each of these three cases, it was the newsdesk that spoke to the individual first so they had the initial conversation, they took down the initial memo of the story, and they knew already exactly who the source was, exactly what their professions were and exactly what the initial story was before I was asked to get involved."
On his attitude to sources, the defendant said: "It's at the heart of what every journalist does from the moment you begin as a trainee journalists. It's enshrined in what you do.
"Journalists throughout the ages have gone to prison to defy court orders to give up their sources."
Wells and Blake are on trial at the Old Bailey alongside two other Sun reporters and an ex-Daily Mirror reporter.
Blake, 43, from Slough, Wells, of south east London, Sun journalist Neil Millard, 33, of south Croydon, ex-Mirror journalist Graham Brough, 54, of south west London, and a Sun reporter who cannot be named, all deny conspiring to commit misconduct, while Blake additionally denies misconduct in a public office.