Tabloid reporter to be sentenced today after buying stories about killer's easy life in prison - Press Gazette

Tabloid reporter to be sentenced today after buying stories about killer's easy life in prison

A News of the World journalist who wrote two stories about James Bulger killer Jon Venables's apparently privileged life behind bars will be sentenced today after becoming the first journalist to be found guilty of paying a corrupt official for tips.

The reporter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office last month following a trial at the Old Bailey.

The defendant was accused of paying prison officer Scott Chapman for information about Venables after he was sent back to prison in 2010 for child porn offences.

Chapman, 42, who made £40,000 from selling information to various newspapers, was convicted of misconduct in a public office alongside his ex-partner Lynn Gaffney, 40, who let him to use her bank account to channel payments.

They will all be sentenced by judge Charles Wide at the Old Bailey later.

The judge told the reporter to be "under no illusions" about the sentence and warned Chapman that he should expect his jail term to be counted in years, rather than months.

To date, despite the conviction of public officers, the ex-NoW employee is the only journalist to be found guilty of paying corrupt officials since police launched their multi-million pound investigation, codenamed Operation Elveden, in 2011.

The trial had heard how Chapman first contacted the Sun in 2010 and went on to sell stories to a host of other newspapers including the NoW and the Daily Star Sunday, using Gaffney's bank account in exchange for a third of his earnings.

The tabloids published a string of articles about Venables' life behind bars which ranged from his efforts to lose weight to his love of Harry Potter books.

A security chief from the prison where he worked said Chapman's leaks had a "catastrophic" effect on the operation of the prison and left Venables feeling "very suspicious" of staff charged with his care.

But under cross-examination, she was accused of a "serious breach of duty" after it emerged that she had formed that view from secret talks with Venables in her search for the source.

Chapman said he first contacted the Sun about Venables because he was unhappy about the way he was given special treatment and then turned to other newspapers in an attempt to stop his Sun contact "pestering" him.

He told jurors he would usually send images of his prison ID card and a wage slip as confirmation to journalists.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC queried the public interest of stories he described as "drivel" and "tittle tattle", and asked Chapman: "Is it important that Jon Venables likes Harry Potter?"

The journalist denied knowing who Chapman was or receiving images of his ID card and wage slip, despite an email to a NotW boss which suggested the opposite.

The defendant went on to insist that it was in the public interest that the newspaper exposed Venables' "comfortable" lifestyle behind bars.

The journalist said: "This was a public interest story we were writing about Jon Venables, who abducted a two-year-old from a shopping centre, tortured and murdered him.

"He had been taken in by the Prison Service, given millions of pounds for a new identity, then repeat-offended and the Prison Service deal with it by making his life as comfortable as possible."

Chapman, 42, and Gaffney, 40, of Corby, Northamptonshire, denied misconduct in a public office. The NotW reporter denied conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office in relation to two stories.

Co-defendant, Daily Star Sunday reporter Tom Savage, 37, from south London, was cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.




Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.