News International denied police requests to access financial data during investigations into allegations of illegal payments to a civil servant the Old Bailey jury at the “HMRC Leak Trial” was told today.
Thomas Lewis, of accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers, told the jury at the trial of Sun political correspondent Clodagh Hartley that police requests for information from News International were passed to his firm via solicitors Linklaters and “snapshots” from the company’s financial system were sent in return.
Mr Lewis said “If a question was asked about a specific vendor number we would hand it over, removing things that were not relevant”. He added “the data we handed over depended on the specific question we were asked.”
The court had previously been told that News International (now known as News UK) has refused both defence and prosecution requests to access the system directly so the Crown is relying on these “snapshots” to show that the payments were made.
Alexandra Healey QC, who is defending Hartley suggested to the witness: “The reason your firm was employed was to locate specific information without revealing other confidential sources?”; “It was not for us to decide what was released to who” Lewis replied.
Ms Hartley is charged with “conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office” over alleged payments to an HMRC press officer Jonathan Hall, including, the prosecution say, £750 to gain advance notice of measures to be introduced in the 2010 budget.
The court has previously heard claims that the leaks “undermined public confidence” in the budget and a Sun front page revealing fuel duty was to rise may have cost the country a large sum in revenue as people stocked up on petrol before the tax increase.
Also on trial at Court Xix of London’s Old Bailey is the civil servant’s partner, Marta Bukarewicz, who is accused of receiving payments into her bank account from News International before passing them on to Hall.
The jury was later taken through a 42 page document listing text messages and telephone calls between the journalist and the civil servant and stories and payments, the prosecution say were linked to these. One of the payments shown to the jury was listed in the newspaper’s financial system as for: “exclusive budget leaks.”
Both of the defendants deny the charges, the trial continues.