Chris Pharo said he did not question reporters about their cash payments to contacts – some of whom turned out to be police officers and other public officials – because it wasn’t his job. He and five senior colleagues at Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper deny conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office over a series of payments to public officials.
At Kingston Crown Court, Mr Pharo said that he could not recall rejecting any cash payments requested by reporters, because he was too busy and did not want to get into confrontations with reporters.
Peter Wright, for the Crown, asked: “Did anyone ever question anything at the Sun?” to which Mr Pharo – who has been at the Sun for 25 years – replied: “I have to say, very little.”
The prosecutor said: “So you all walked around in fear of another tirade from that dragon, Rebekah Wade; is that correct?”
After a short pause, Mr Pharo replied: “That’s a pretty accurate summary.”
Mr Pharo, 45, from Wapping, east London, was questioned about the Sun’s exclusive in 2009 on the drink-drive arrest of Dane Bowers after the singer reportedly spent a night with the model Jordan.
Mr Pharo initially valued the source’s help at £750 but later increased that to £1500 after the reporter Jamie Pyatt, who is on trial alongside Mr Pharo, said that his source had given “every cough and spit” on the arrest.
Asking for a further £500, Mr Pyatt said that the source had helped with two other stories, which he listed as “the farmer who gassed himself and 10 firemen by swallowing rat poison in front of them” and “the wheelie bin murder in Cobham.”
Mr Wright suggested to Mr Pharo, who approved the further £500, that it was clear that the contact was a police officer.
Mr Pharo said he had given little thought to the payment, saying he was busy running the paper, which had a multi-million pound budget.
“James is an extremely experienced reported with extensive contacts,” he told the court.
“To be honest with you an extra £500 is not within the scheme of things a huge sum of money…It was a drop in the ocean.”
He added: “I didn’t want the confrontation, not over £500.”
Mr Wright took up Mr Pharo’s suggestion that he tended to take “the line of least resistance.”
Wasn’t that, the prosecutor suggested, just an attempt to “disassociate” him from what was going on at the Sun – “the routine corruption of public officials?”
Mr Pharo, giving evidence for the third day, said: “I disagree with that.”
After Mr Wright continued: “Bunging and bribing and corrupting…” the defendant said: “That’s not the case.”
Mr Wright said that had Mr Pharo made a few more inquiries he would have been able to establish that the source was a serving police officer.
Mr Pharo replied: “I am simply validating a payment here… “It wasn’t my role to question the sources of journalists at the Sun”.
Mr Wright said: “Ask no questions, get no answers: is that the position?” to which Mr Pharo replied: “Yes it is, actually.”
Later, Mr Pharo said: “It was not my role to police the Sun’s newsroom. It was my job to bring stories into the paper.”
All the defendants deny all charges. The case is continuing.
This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks