The Sun’s head of news denied that falling public trust in the police, prison service and Broadmoor high security hospital was simply “collateral damage” for the newspaper’s news-gathering operation.
“I utterly refute that,” Chris Pharo told Kingston Crown Court at the end of his three days in the witness box.
Mr Pharo and five senior past and present colleagues at the paper are on trial at Kingston Crown Court accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Giving evidence, Mr Pharo said that while he knew in general that public officials were paid by the Sun he was unaware of any identifiable public officials receiving money from payments he sent to the editor for authorisation.
Some of the references to police contacts or Broadmoor contacts were evidence of reporter Jamie Pyatt’s “over-florid” language, he said, rather than evidence that he, Mr Pharo, knew the payments were going to public officials.
Asked by the lead prosecutor about an email from Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt asking for payment for a “Surrey Police contact,” Mr Pharo said: “As I’ve explained that the kind of terminology Jamie would use on virtually every payment he would put in.”
Peter Wright QC, for the Crown, said: “In your pursuit of stories for the Sun over your time there which is covered by the counts in the indictment, did you ever consider the damage that may be done to the public’s trust in public office held by a number of different officials?”
Mr Pharo replied: “I have to say it didn’t generally occur to me. We were working very hard to get stories into the paper.”
He added that he had not set up the paper’s cash payments system, but acknowledged that it had been “ripe for abuse.”
He went on: “But on none of the occasions did I with any certainly know these cash payments were going to public officials”.
The prosecutor asked the news editor whether he had ever considered public faith in the police, the prison service and Broadmoor. In each case, Mr Pharo replied: “I can’t say that I did.”
Mr Wright added: “Or is just that they were simply collateral damage?” to which Mr Pharo replied: “I utterly refute that.”
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
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